FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS ABOUT KEY BIODIVERSITY AREAS IN CANADA

The Basics/General

Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) are sites contributing significantly to the global or national persistence of biodiversity in terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems. KBAs must meet at least one of a set of specific criteria and quantitative thresholds focused on five aspects:

  1. Threatened biodiversity;
  2. Geographically restricted biodiversity;
  3. Ecological integrity;
  4. Biological processes; and,
  5. Irreplaceability through quantitative analysis.

For an in-depth, technical summary of the KBA criteria, read the global and national standards for the identification of KBAs

The IUCN published a Global Standard to identify globally significant sites for biodiversity in 2016 following extensive consultation. This has been adapted to the Canadian context to allow us to identify nationally significant sites. Global and National KBAs are identified through an identical process in Canada. Having a National KBA Standard allows for the identification of KBAs for species and ecosystems that are recognized as distinctly important for Canadian conservation (for example, species and populations assessed by COSEWIC).

Key Biodiversity Areas can be identified for all taxa as well as ecosystems in terrestrial, inland water and marine environments. The thresholds associated with each of the criteria can be applied to any taxonomic group (other than micro-organisms) and ecosystems. Genetic diversity can also be addressed if there is enough information to assess this aspect of diversity. In Canada, the national adaptation of the KBA Standard allows the consideration of designatable units (i.e., a Canadian designation that includes species, subspecies, variety, or geographically or genetically distinct population that may be assessed by COSEWIC, where such units are both discrete and evolutionarily significant – see here for more information).

The Global KBA Standard is the result of a 12-year consultation led by the IUCN WCPA-SSC Joint Task Force on Biodiversity and Protected Areas with experts from conservation organizations, governments, academia, and the private sector to consolidate criteria and methodology for identifying KBAs. These consultations included Canadian perspectives, including from Justina Ray (WCS Canada) and Stephen Woodley (IUCN), who kicked off the work of adapting the Global Standard to a Canadian context immediately following its publication in 2016. 

Work on the National Standard for the Identification of Key Biodiversity Areas in Canada was led by WCS Canada and David Fraser (COSEWIC) in consultation with experts from Birds Canada, NatureServe, IUCN, WWF-Canada, Nature Conservancy of Canada, and others. It was reviewed by federal, provincial and territorial government agencies participating in the Pathway to Canada Target 1 process as well as by 18 peer reviewers.  

There is no minimum or maximum size requirement for a KBA. The size of a KBA will depend on the ecological boundaries of the biodiversity elements that triggered its designation, so sites identified due to their high ecological integrity are likely to be larger than sites identified under other KBA criteria (such as the presence of a species at risk).

While there is no size requirement, KBAs should be sites with defined ecological, physical, administrative or management boundaries that are currently or potentially manageable as a single unit.

The World Database of Key Biodiversity Areas includes an interactive online map of KBAs with links to documentation for each site.

Most KBAs identified to date are for birds, based on the long-running Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas Program. Only a few countries, such as South Africa, Uganda, and Mozambique, have begun identifying KBAs for other taxa and ecosystems, and it will take time to identify these additional KBAs around the world. Canada is a global leader in the work of identifying new KBAs and is the first country to have developed a National KBA Standard.

As KBAs are identified in Canada, they are added to our interactive KBA map on this website, which links to information about the site and species. You can see the KBAs identified to date there.

At its inception, the KBA Canada program began with an important collection of existing KBAs that includes many of Canada’s Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas and two Alliance for Zero Extinction sites. AZE sites contain the entire population of a species during at least part of its life cycle and are being reassessed to confirm that they meet KBA criteria. Birds Canada is leading the reassessment of IBAs under KBA criteria. The experience of Birds Canada in identifying, delineating and stewarding IBAs is an important foundation for the KBA Canada initiative. The network of KBAs in Canada will therefore contain many sites that evolved from IBAs. 

All KBAs will be reassessed every 8-12 years to ensure that the area still meets KBA criteria. This reassessment will include updating population estimates where possible and may require updating which species meet KBA criteria (adding or removing species). The reassessment will be led by the KBA Canada Secretariat and, where possible, will include consultations with those who originally put the site forward. 

The KBA identification process is a highly inclusive, consultative and bottom-up exercise. Anyone with appropriate scientific data or knowledge may propose a site as a KBA. The KBA Canada Secretariat will support the development of new KBA proposals. If desired, the Secretariat may lead the technical steps for the development of a KBA proposal, with the proposing individual or organization advising and consulting at key steps.

Consultation with stakeholders (both non-governmental and governmental organizations) and rightsholders is required for sites, and all proposals must undergo independent scientific review. Following this, the KBA Canada Secretariat is responsible for submitting KBA proposals to the KBA Canada Steering Committee and Global KBA Secretariat for acceptance. 

Sites confirmed by the KBA Canada Secretariat as qualifying as KBAs will appear on the National KBA Canada Registry and, for global KBAs, also in the World Database of KBAs

Visit the “Understanding KBA identification” section of the FAQ for more details on the identification process, and the “Who’s involved” section for more questions about who is currently identifying KBAs across Canada.

The Key Biodiversity Areas standard comes at an opportune time in Canada, given the federal government’s commitment to achieving Aichi Target 11 of the Convention on Biological Diversity. The “Pathway to Canada Target 1” process was launched by the federal government in 2017 to implement the terrestrial component of this target. The Pathway to Target 1 National Steering Committee comprises the federal, provincial, and territorial agencies responsible for implementing the Pathway process.  It recognizes that their stated target for percentage of land protected (17%) is insufficient on its own, and that it is important to look at qualitative elements when identifying sites for protection, namely “areas important for biodiversity and ecosystem services”.

The multi-stakeholder Pathway to Target 1 National Advisory Panel in its report in March 2018, explicitly urged the identification of global and national KBAs across Canada as important to addressing these qualitative components. The Canadian KBA initiative plays an important role in helping to establish new protected areas that will be effective in conserving biodiversity. This is a huge opportunity for Canada to improve our ability to target the right places to protect our natural heritage. However, there is now also broad recognition that KBA information will feed into a diversity of conservation approaches, beyond the original impetus provided by the Pathway process.

Importance of KBAs for conservation/Working with KBAs

Sites identified as KBAs do not automatically have any kind of legal protection. In practice, KBAs will often be useful in informing protected area designations and many existing protected areas qualify as KBAs. The KBA approach offers a rigorous and quantitative way for governments, private landholders and local and Indigenous communities to identify sites that are important to steward, manage in some way or avoid during project development in order for these areas to contribute to the global persistence of biodiversity.

Formal protection may not be appropriate or even desirable for all KBAs. KBAs could qualify as OECMs (‘Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures’ in the language of Aichi Target 11) or can be managed as Indigenous Protected and Conserved Areas (IPCAs). Where KBAs exist on private lands, landowners might take up the stewardship of these places. In areas where people have lived for millennia, the stewardship and activities of Indigenous populations (including sustainable harvesting) are likely important factors in why these areas qualify as Key Biodiversity Areas today.

While many KBAs are being identified within protected areas, many are completely outside of any formal protection. Preliminary assessment of existing global bird KBAs in North America suggests that the average coverage of protected areas across sites is about 33%. The global and national recognition of KBAs could help draw more funding to protected areas, and the information from KBAs could be used as a global and national indicator of effectiveness of protected areas for conserving biodiversity. Recent research has also shown that establishing protected areas does not automatically provide protection to species and ecosystems, which require targeted management to ensure their persistence. KBA identification within protected areas draws attention to key sites for the persistence of biodiversity.

Key Biodiversity Areas can be used to inform a broad variety of conservation approaches. See here for an end-user assessment of KBA applications conducted at the global scale. A number of uses are listed below.

(adapted from WWF Technical Paper: The relationship between Key Biodiversity Areas and other designations, 2017):

  • Informing the identification of priority sites for legal protection
  • Guiding the management of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs): Information and data on the biodiversity elements within a KBA can help inform management and sustainable use decisions for statutory designated protected areas or other site-based conservation mechanisms (e.g. private protected areas, Indigenous reserves, conservation easements, etc.).
  • Supporting private sector decision making: e.g. risk management, informing Environmental Impact Assessments, Strategic Environmental Assessments etc. It should be noted that KBAs are not intended to be ‘no-go’ areas, although businesses will be encouraged to take special measures to reduce environmental impacts on KBAs.
  • Guiding investment: enabling donors to ensure that conservation funding is directed to the most important places for the global persistence of biodiversity. In addition, KBAs can and do inform environmental safeguards of international financing institutions as Critical Habitats or similar categories (e.g. International Finance Corporation Performance Standard 6)
  • Informing land/sea use planning: KBAs can be used in land and sea use planning at various levels as sites of high conservation value where certain types of activities such as sustainable use and conservation should be encouraged.
  • Informing extractive and other sectors: KBAs may also be integrated into legislation, regulatory mechanisms, standards or certification schemes of relevant production sectors (e.g. linear infrastructure, forestry, agriculture, and mining).
  • Providing focus for the work of international, national and local NGOs: As sites which contribute significantly to the global persistence of biodiversity, KBAs can be a useful tool for NGO priority setting.
  • Providing additional recognition for sites that currently lack recognition from governments and others, e.g. Indigenous Peoples and community conserved areas; corridors of unprotected land providing crucial genetic exchange between protected areas, etc.

Since KBAs do not provide automatic protections to an area, their identification will not directly count towards any protected area targets. However, KBAs can help guide the establishment of new protected areas to make sure that these areas are capturing quality places for biodiversity.  

For more on how KBAs can help guide nations towards their conservation targets, read “Conserving at least 30% of the planet by 2030 – What should count?”.

KBAs consolidate many existing site designations into a single, strictly quantitative standard and complement other tools that use qualitative approaches or that identify important regions or landscapes for conservation. While the KBA approach alone cannot capture all biodiversity values important to communities, it is a powerful tool for directing conservation to remarkable and often vulnerable sites. Advantages of the KBA approach include::

  • It identifies the places that are the most irreplaceable in terms of preventing the loss of specific species and ecosystems.
  • It is standardized and quantitative, yielding repeatable, consistent results. KBAs are thus a highly trusted designation.
  • It is based on a global standard developed by hundreds of experts and a partnership of many global conservation organizations.
  • Sites of importance for all taxonomic groups and ecosystems are captured, including biodiversity that often does not receive much attention.
  • It is site-scaled, proven to be important for biodiversity conservation and can feed into other conservation processes.

There are many different approaches to identifying important sites for biodiversity, but these are by and large confined to specific elements or taxa, such as Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (Canadian IBAs here), Prime Butterfly Areas, Important Plant Areas, Alliance for Zero Extinction sites, and Important Amphibian and Reptile Areas among others. In 2012, IUCN members asked the agency to convene a worldwide consultative process to consolidate these into one standard for Key Biodiversity Areas. The standard, launched during the 2016 World Conservation Congress, builds on more than 40 years of experience in identifying sites for different taxonomic, ecological or thematic subsets of biodiversity, in particular Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas from BirdLife International, but also Alliance for Zero Extinction sites and several others. The KBA Standard provides a single overarching framework for harmonizing these approaches, and a common “currency” for site conservation. It is a system that can be applied in a consistent, repeatable way by different users over time, helping to ensure that KBA identification is objective, transparent and rigorous through application of quantitative thresholds.

Other approaches that incorporate multiple taxa, such as the hotspot approach, are typically applied at much larger scales. KBAs are at the “site” scale – each KBA should be a single manageable unit. This separates them from hotspots, ecoregions, wilderness areas and Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs) that are identified at higher-order scales. KBAs are also developed based only on quantitative ecological criteria, in contrast to EBSAs or areas of High Conservation Value (HCVs), for example, which can include qualitative rationales. The identification of KBAs can feed into planning processes and other designations, such as EBSAs, World Heritage Areas, Ramsar sites, etc. For more in-depth discussion of the relationship between KBAs and other tools, see the WWF Technical Paper: The relationship between Key Biodiversity Areas and other designations (2017).

KBAs are an objective and quantitative information tool, and can be used to inform prioritization and planning, investment, monitoring or any other conservation objective. While KBAs are not a prioritization approach in and of themselves, and do not automatically bring protection or management prescriptions to a site, they could be used to inform these processes.

For a more in-depth discussion of this topic, please see the article “Synergies between the key biodiversity area and systematic conservation planning approaches”. The authors point out that systematic conservation planning and Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) are the two most widely used approaches for identifying important sites for biodiversity, are very complementary, and provide suggestions for how to combine the two approaches.

Understanding KBA identification

Guidelines for the implementation of the KBA Standard are available in the document, “Guidelines for using A Global Standard for the Identification of Key Biodiversity Areas”. The guidelines will be revised on a regular basis by the KBA Standards and Appeals Committee in collaboration with the Technical working group.

The KBA Canada Secretariat has produced a helpful short video on the identification of KBAs, and a few main steps are listed here:

  1. Biodiversity elements that may meet KBA criteria are identified (e.g. a threatened ecosystem or a very large aggregation of species).
  2. A rough site is identified that captures the biodiversity elements within it.
  3. An analysis is conducted to determine whether thresholds are met for designating a KBA (e.g. is more than 5% of the endangered ecosystem type captured within the site? See here for all thresholds).
  4. Delineation occurs according to suggested guidelines, and should build off any existing conservation sites nearby.
  5. Any site proposal must undergo independent scientific review, and review by stakeholders and rightsholders. This is followed by the official site proposal with full documentation meeting the Documentation Standards for KBAs. Sites confirmed by the KBA Secretariat to qualify as KBAs then appear on the global KBA website.

Note that all steps should be completed in consultation with relevant communities, organizations, governments and experts. When identifying multiple sites, a scoping exercise to map out potential sites based on multiple taxa and criteria is recommended.

The key documents explaining the methodology for identifying Key Biodiversity Areas methodology are available on our website in the Resources section. This includes the Global KBA Standard, the National KBA Standard, and more detailed guidelines for the implementation of the standards. 

A concise explanation of the Global KBA Standard and Guidelines is available, and the KBA Canada website contains more regional and national webinars about identifying KBAs and their potential uses. For a shorter explanation of how to identify KBAs in Canada, see here.  The global KBA Partnership has developed an online Key Biodiversity Area Training Course as well, which is useful but generalized for a global context. Guidance and training from the Canadian KBA Secretariat will take precedence in Canada. When possible, the KBA Canada Secretariat can provide training to groups and organizations interested in identifying KBAs.

The Global Standard of the Identification of KBAs was developed by an IUCN working group to provide guidance on the specific criteria and processes for identifying sites that are globally significant KBAs. The Global Standard was created following 12 years of development and testing and broad global support and provides a consistent and rigorous set of methods for the assessment and proposal of sites as KBAs.

 The National Standard for the Identification of KBAs in Canada replicates the consistency and rigor of the Global Standard, while reflecting biodiversity and conservation priorities tailored to this country. The National Standard enables the identification of nationally significant KBAs and, among other things, allows the use of national threat assessments (e.g. COSEWIC or NatureServe assessments) and the assessment of biodiversity of national relevance, including accepted infra-species (subspecies and populations) and COSEWIC Designatable Units.

Yes, the National Standard allows for the identification of KBA for species that only occur in Canada at the northern edge of their range, like the Threatened (COSEWIC) Greater Short-horned Lizard or the Endangered (COSEWIC) Prothonotary Warbler. This is because these populations are often very limited in their Canadian distribution and therefore qualify as geographically restricted within Canada (but often not globally). Some research suggests that populations at the northern edge of a species’ range may be especially important, as these edge populations may be the best suited to initiate range expansions and climate-driven range shifts if they are locally adapted to extreme edge conditions (e.g. Hargreaves and Eckert 2018). As climate change drives shifts in species distributions, identifying the sites that are important for northern edge populations is increasingly important for preserving genetic diversity and connectivity across species’ ranges.

The National KBA map provides information on all KBAs in Canada. These data are freely available for anyone to download and access through the KBA Registry. Information on globally significant KBAs will also be made available on the Global KBA Registry. KBAs in progress are visible here and these data will be available as soon as individual KBA proposals are reviewed and accepted.

KBA identification considers only national-level (or higher) threat assessments and classifications (e.g. COSEWIC, NatureServe, IUCN), and the KBA criteria for threatened biodiversity (i.e. Criteria A) does not apply to provincial assessments or classifications. Any species or ecosystem can meet KBA criteria at a site if 10% or more of its national or global population/range is present at the site, regardless of their threat status. Thresholds for threatened species (national or global statuses) are lower, as low as 0.1% of National or Global population for extremely threatened and rapidly declining species (e.g. Little Brown Myotis bats, Burrowing Owl). For threatened and non-threatened species, any site may also meet KBA criteria if there are demographic aggregations of 1% or more of the species’ national or global population at a site. 

Who’s Involved

The global KBA Partnership includes 13 of the world’s leading nature conservation organizations. It is organized into multiple committees and working groups and coordinated through a Secretariat. 

A Coalition of NGOs, governments, universities and other institutions has banded together to lead the identification of Key Biodiversity Areas in Canada, mobilizing biodiversity expertise (e.g. taxonomic and ecosystem specialists), including individual scientists and scientific bodies (e.g. COSEWIC), across Canada. Members of the Canadian KBA Coalition and of the Management Committee are listed on the “Who’s Involved” section of this website. The KBA Canada Secretariat, comprising WCS Canada, Birds Canada, and NatureServe Canada, are responsible for accepting KBA proposals and steering the national KBA initiative. All enquiries for the KBA Canada Secretariat should be directed here.

As the KBA Canada initiative works to comprehensively identify all KBAs across the country, Birds Canada leads the reassessment of existing Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) to the KBA criteria, while WCS Canada leads the work of identifying new KBAs for all non-bird taxa and ecosystems. NatureServe Canada is a crucial partner in mobilizing biodiversity data for the initiative.

The Canadian KBA initiative is open to everyone with an interest in identifying and delineating sites based on the KBA criteria. If you’re interested in participating in the technical work or as part of the KBA Canada Coalition, please visit our “Who’s Involved” page or reach out to chat more. 

Indigenous participation in KBAs

KBAs are identified using a global standard and ecological criteria only. This tool identifies sites important to the global persistence of species and ecosystems and doesn’t capture other values that are important to Indigenous communities and Nations. Partially, this is because it’s a global standard, and values important to communities don’t easily translate into criteria that can be assessed at the global scale. However, it’s also true that Indigenous experts were not consulted during the development of the global standard. The KBA Standard doesn’t capture a lot of values that are important to conservation and land management in different places, and focuses just on sites that are important for avoiding the loss of species and ecosystems from the planet. Avoiding the permanent loss of biodiversity is likely a common goal across all cultures, and KBAs can help us achieve this goal, but there are many other values of high importance to communities that also need to be addressed. For wise stewardship of the land and waters, and for the health of communities, we need to consider additional values, such as cultural values, ecosystem services, ecosystem and community health, among others, using tools that complement each other to answer to the information needs of communities.

While KBAs may or may not align with places that have high value for Indigenous communities, the KBA tool can be used to complement information that prioritizes the values that are most important to Indigenous communities. And KBAs will certainly occur on Indigenous lands. 

For more on this see the report from a series of national Indigenous KBA workshops led by WCS Canada and the Centre for Indigenous Environmental Resources (CIER), and a KBA webinar on Envisioning Compatibilities between Mi’kmaq Environmental Values and KBA Criteria in Mi’kma’ki.

The sites where KBAs are identified are often already known to Indigenous communities and experts, but by applying the KBA Standard to recognize the sites formally as KBAs, the sites will receive international recognition as places that are especially important for sustaining species and ecosystems. KBA Canada is interested in supporting Indigenous-led conservation as much as possible, and to this end, is asking Indigenous communities and Nations how this work and the resulting information could be useful to them. Some possibilities that have been mentioned to date include:

We are interested in hearing from Indigenous communities and Nations about how KBA information could be useful or relevant and will continue to provide opportunities for these types of discussions (e.g. see here for two national workshops held on this topic).

KBAs are identified using existing information and knowledge, and the process does not involve new research or information gathering on the land. There is no need to visit a place in order to identify it as a KBA, but those who know the site well can offer rich descriptions of the site, its associated values and importance to Indigenous communities and Nations, and detailed information about the biodiversity found there (if they desire to do so).

KBAs are identified and site boundaries are developed based on the scientific criteria established by a global process coordinated by IUCN. See the “What are KBAs” FAQ for an overview of the criteria and standards. The diagram here illustrates the process of exploring potential KBAs, delineating a site, and developing a KBA proposal.

Completing a KBA proposal form involves documenting all species and ecosystems that could meet KBA criteria and entering the information into a standardized spreadsheet.

During this first period of KBA identification (2020-2024), regional coordinators have been leading the work of researching potential species, ecosystems and sites that could meet KBA criteria. These regional coordinators are then responsible for filling in the KBA proposal form, with help from a variety of knowledge holders with information about the species, ecosystem and site (See the “Basics/General” and “Understanding KBA Identification” sections of the FAQ). Regional coordinators are leading the work because KBAs are a new tool and few people are familiar with the methods used to identify KBAs. We hope that this will change over the next few years as more people are trained in the methods, and foresee new KBAs being identified and proposed by communities, organizations and interested individuals in the future. Already, Indigenous communities and experts can propose new KBAs at any time, and the KBA Secretariat can provide training and support for this work. Alternatively, regional coordinators can continue to do the heavy lifting and get input from communities, organizations and interested individuals. All models are acceptable as long as the KBA Standard and guidelines are followed to ensure a consistent set of outputs.

Whether KBA Canada or an Indigenous community or Nation leads the development of a KBA proposal, collaboration will ensure that i) all available information and knowledge is included in the KBA assessment; ii) that relevant cultural and Indigenous values are included with the scientific information about the species and place where desired; iii) that KBA boundaries appropriately obscure any potentially sensitive locations; and iv) that no potentially sensitive information about species or the site itself is shared. The KBA Secretariat can also provide information about whether a site is already being considered as a KBA, in order to avoid any work duplication.

KBA proposals are eventually submitted to the national KBA Steering Committee for acceptance, and global KBAs are submitted to the global KBA Secretariat to be accepted to the World Database of KBAs. These two bodies check whether the KBA criteria have been applied correctly, whether the KBA proposals have been reviewed by experts and whether rights holders and stakeholders have been consulted. There is no decision-making involved in accepting a KBA, other than checking that the sites do indeed meet KBA criteria.

Potential KBAs are most easily identified by individuals trained in the application of the KBA Standard, who explore potential species, ecosystems and sites where KBAs might be and determine whether there is sufficient existing information about the species and place to support a KBA proposal. However, anyone can identify a KBA if they are familiar with the KBA Standard and criteria, or by requesting support or training from the KBA Secretariat. Even if not leading the proposal of a KBA, Indigenous Peoples can be included in the identification of a KBA at any of the stages identified in the figure below:

How to be involved during early stages: Identify biodiversity elements and Identify candidate sites

  • Learn about KBA criteria and methods: If you would like to learn more about how to identify KBAs and about the KBA criteria, get in touch with the KBA Secretariat and request training or a discussion. As the KBA initiative is getting off the ground, a team of trained regional coordinators is working to identify potential KBAs across the country, but as the tool becomes more broadly known, others are welcome to lead the work.
  • Suggest a species or ecosystem that may be relevant to the identification of a KBA: Rare or threatened species and ecosystems may qualify for KBA status, as well as sites where animals gather in huge numbers (e.g. caribou calving grounds, migratory bird stopover sites).
  • Suggest a site as a potential KBA: If you think a KBA may exist on your homeland or territory, you can get in touch with the KBA Secretariat and we can help explore this possibility.
  • Research on species and sites: KBA proposals require supporting information about species populations, ecosystems and site characteristics. If you have information about a potential KBA, you can contribute knowledge about the species, ecosystem or site, if desired. All forms of knowledge are appropriate.

How to be involved during the middle stages: Calculate assessment thresholds and Delineate boundaries

  • Provide information, data or knowledge about a species, ecosystem or site: In order to determine whether a site meets KBA criteria, information is needed about the concentration of the species or ecosystem at the site and how it compares to what exists on the planet (e.g. a KBA may hold 10% of the global population of a rare plant).
  • Provide input on where a KBA site should begin and end: Providing input on KBA boundaries can ensure that the site boundaries capture the species and ecosystems of interest. Your input can also ensure that any sensitive information is obscured or left out of the boundaries, or that values important to a community are included in the site boundaries, if that’s appropriate and desired.

How to be involved during later stages: Create proposal and External review

  • Development of a KBA proposal: KBA proposals require a lot of supporting information and you can develop a proposal yourself, or ask for support to develop a proposal. The proposal form can be found here, and training is available for those interested in leading the process. In the form, you will see that aside from species and ecosystem information, you can provide information about the site and its importance, management occurring at the site and any other information you think is relevant.
  • Review a KBA proposal: KBAs are developed piece by piece, with the collaboration of many experts and knowledge holders. One way to contribute knowledge of a KBA proposal is through the review of site proposals. You can visit here to find out what sites are in development and get in touch if you’d like to be involved in the development or review of a site. In all cases, KBA Canada will reach out to communities and Nations about specific sites on their land to ensure that they have the opportunity to be included in the process.

Please note that the assessment and proposal process can take a long time from identification of a potential new KBA to submission of a completed KBA proposal for a site. There are many opportunities for participation, and even after a KBA is accepted, it is straightforward to modify or update site information as needed.

There are opportunities to become involved with advising and guiding the direction of the national KBA Canada initiative, either by joining a team of technical advisors or the KBA Steering Committee, which meets once per month. Please reach out if you would like to learn more about this.

Yes, KBA assessment and proposal can incorporate all forms of knowledge, including Traditional Ecological Knowledge (TEK). 

As the KBA initiative is getting off the ground in Canada, a handful of regional coordinators have been trained in the KBA criteria and methods for identifying and proposing a KBA. In the future, when the KBA methodology is more broadly known, we anticipate that other experts, knowledge holders, communities and organizations will lead the proposals for additional KBAs. In the meantime, regional coordinators will lead the development of KBA proposals, bringing in information, data and knowledge from interested collaborators. KBA Canada will reach out to Indigenous communities and Nations to build awareness of the tool and invite collaboration on specific sites. Once a potential KBA is identified on the landscape using available data, additional experts and knowledge holders will then be invited to provide additional information about the site and species/ecosystems there. Collaboration is possible in the following ways:

  • Contribution of information about sites, species and ecosystems. All forms of knowledge are welcome.
  • Descriptions of additional values present at the site, to raise awareness of Indigenous stewardship and values associated with the site or landscape.
  • Advice on where the KBA begins and ends, to ensure that the site boundaries capture the species and ecosystems of interest, to ensure that any sensitive information is obscured or left out of the boundaries, or to suggest that values important to a community are included in the site boundaries.
  • Review of KBA proposals via an online tool and map.
  • Discussions about what KBAs are and are not, and how they could be relevant to communities.
  • Opportunities to advise and guide the program by joining a team of technical advisors or the KBA Steering Committee

If you are familiar with the KBA Standard and criteria, you can develop a KBA proposal using this form. If you would like to receive training on KBA methods, please contact the KBA Secretariat. If you would like to have a discussion about a site, species or ecosystem and whether it meets KBA criteria, please contact the KBA Secretariat, who can coordinate an initial scoping exercise to see if there is potential for a place to meet KBA criteria.

The short answer is that KBAs do not affect access to any lands. While KBAs provide scientific and ecological information about areas of importance for species and biodiversity conservation, they do not imply any mechanism for their conservation or management. Ideally, the conservation and management of the species and places that have been identified as KBAs under the KBA Canada Initiative would address governance and should include Indigenous Peoples in the decision-making and stewardship of these animals and places.

KBAs are identified based on scientific and ecological values for species and ecosystems. These values must be quantified and validated by experts, using any form of knowledge. The set of criteria used to determine whether a site is a KBA does not include cultural values, although some species and places may be culturally significant to Indigenous Peoples. For example, cultural keystone species that are threatened or rare, like American Eel, would likely meet KBA criteria A1 (a threatened species) or B1 (a geographically restricted species). Similarly, culturally important places may also meet KBA criteria. For example, migratory stopover points for snow geese and caribou calving grounds could qualify as KBAs. In these cases, the resulting KBAs may be culturally significant for Indigenous Peoples and part of the food sovereignty on which their roles, responsibilities, and rights are based. In these examples, species and places that may be identified during the KBA Canada Initiative on Indigenous lands can also be culturally meaningful and significant to Indigenous Peoples. Only through engagement with Indigenous Peoples on the KBA Canada initiative, can we know and appreciate this common ground.

KBA Canada Initiative is developing a National KBA Registry, a publicly accessible online registry, which will contain the scientific data and information that qualify the species, ecosystem or place as a KBA. This will include a geospatial map of all KBAs, as well as points where potential KBAs are in the process of being identified.

Maps of KBA boundaries and information about sites and the species within them will be publicly accessible on the National KBA Registry and Global KBA Registry. Text describing the site and its biodiversity will describe each KBA on this site. During the proposal process, KBA proposers will work with regional Conservation Data Centers, species and site experts, and local communities and rights holders with interest in each KBA to make sure that no sensitive information is shared, and that any boundaries appropriately obscure sensitive locations as necessary. Obscuring information may involve removing the names of species or ecosystems, or enlarging the site to obscure where specific landscape or biodiversity elements are located. All species, ecosystem and site information will be stored over the long term in a secure database co-managed by WCS Canada and NatureServe Canada.

Developing a KBA proposal does not require sharing information on species or ecosystem information. As long as all biodiversity information supporting a KBA proposal can be made available upon request for review, communities and Nations do not need to transfer data to the KBA Canada Initiative. 

Information about the cultural value and significance of a species, ecosystem or place should only be shared by an Indigenous community or Nation if they would like this information to be shared publicly through the KBA registry. If information is shared with KBA Canada, it will be stored over the long term in a secure database co-managed by WCS Canada and NatureServe Canada. Sensitive information or data that is contributed about species, ecosystems and sites in order to apply KBA criteria and delineate sites, but that is not meant to be shared publicly, will not be shared publicly, but remain in the secure KBA database that underlies the public KBA registry.

KBA Canada takes advice from partners and governments in each jurisdiction about the sensitivity of all data before sharing it or making it public. No sensitive data will be released and no knowledge will be used or shared without the permission of knowledge holders. These principles apply to biodiversity data and to all forms of traditional Indigenous knowledge that might be included in KBA proposals. Different forms of Indigenous knowledge might include names (e.g. if Indigenous place names are being considered for use as KBA names), any cultural information that may appear in descriptions of the site, locations (e.g. during delineation of KBAs), and more. 

As long as information supporting a KBA proposal can be made available upon request for review, communities and Nations do not need to transfer data to the KBA Canada Initiative.

Assessing and proposing a KBA does not require any new research, monitoring or any other cost other than the time that it takes to gather information and fill in a KBA proposal form. KBA Canada may be able to contribute to the process through training of individuals, technical support, GIS mapping, or other forms of support. Alternatively, KBA Canada staff can also lead the KBA assessment and development of a KBA proposal, with individuals or groups from Indigenous communities or Nations advising and reviewing at each step of the proposal. KBA Canada offers an honorarium to Indigenous knowledge holders who participate in meetings or workshops with KBA Canada. Please reach out if you are interested in any of the resources.

You can visit this map of KBAs in progress to explore whether there are any discussions occurring about KBAs in your region. Contact the KBA Secretariat to find out more about specific places or species.

KBA Canada is committed to reaching out to Indigenous Nations and communities about KBAs on their territories and traditional lands. Due to the scope of the KBA work in Canada, it may take some time before we are in contact with communities and Nations about specific KBAs. In the meantime, please don’t hesitate to contact us if you would like to be involved in a KBA proposal.  

Work on KBAs in-progress

Birds Canada has undertaken an analysis to assess existing Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas (IBAs) against the new KBA standard, and many of Canada’s IBAs (www.ibacanada.org/) will qualify for KBA criteria. Because of this IBA foundation, most of the KBAs for bird species are already identified across the country. 

Other past efforts to identify important sites for biodiversity, such as Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) sites, Important Plant Areas (IPAs), and Important Amphibian and Reptile Areas (IMPARA) are also being considered in the search to identify all KBAs in Canada. 

KBA Canada will always accept KBA proposals, and we expect that new KBAs will continue to be identified long into the future as new data are collected. Since the KBA Canada program began in 2019, the KBA Secretariat has been intensively working to identify all the current KBAs across the country. We expect that this intensive period of identification will continue until 2024, at which point we hope that the majority of KBAs across the country will be identified.

Relatively few KBAs have been identified in northern Canada because most KBA work to date has focused on identifying KBA for threatened and rare species. Because of the relative intactness of much of northern Canada, there is a high potential for KBAs identified around areas here that have globally outstanding ecological integrity (i.e. Criterion C KBAs). These sites will be much larger than most other KBAs (~10,000 km2), and when they are identified, will help to highlight some of the areas with both very low impact from industrial human pressures as well as high biotic and ecosystem integrity and functionality.