The Alliance for Zero Extinction (www.zeroextinction.org) is a global initiative of biodiversity conservation organisations aiming to prevent extinctions by identifying and safeguarding key sites where species are in imminent danger of disappearing. Sites qualifying for AZE status must meet all three of these criteria:
- Endangerment:An AZE site must contain at least one globally Endangered (EN) or Critically Endangered (CR) species, as listed on the IUCN Red List.
- Irreplaceability: An AZE site should only be designated if it is the sole area where an EN or CR species occurs, contains the overwhelmingly significant known resident population (>95%) of the EN or CR species, or contains the overwhelmingly significant known population (>95%) for one life history segment (e.g. breeding or wintering) of the EN or CR species.
- Discreteness:The area must have a definable boundary within which the character of habitats, biological communities, and/or management issues have more in common with each other than they do with those in adjacent areas.
All confirmed AZE sites are also Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs), under the global standard agreed in 2016 (https://portals.iucn.org/union/sites/union/files/doc/a_global_standard_for_the_identification_of_key_biodiversity_areas_final_web.pdf), and especially in relation to KBA criterion A1e (i.e. sites that effectively hold the entire global population of a CR or EN species).
Since late 2015, a team comprising BirdLife International, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the American Bird Conservancy (ABC) has been reviewing, updating and expanding the AZE data set. This is as part of a 3-year project funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF: https://www.thegef.org/project/alliance-zero-extinction-aze-conserving-earths-most-irreplaceable-sites-endangered) and implemented by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP). We are now sharing the draft results of this update for wider expert consultation, and welcome comments and feedback through the Forum: http://www.birdlife.org/globally-threatened-bird-forums/2017/07/aze-consultation/. An extension has been granted to the amphibian community given that amphibians trigger so many AZE sites, but please note that the deadline for input is August 15th 2017. Also, please send comments directly to Janet Scott (Janet.SCOTT@iucn.org).
Since it was first launched in 2005 and updated in 2010, the AZE data set has become increasingly out of date, owing to changes in taxonomy, IUCN Red List assessments, knowledge of the distributions and populations of species, and genuine changes. The current major update focuses on the following taxonomic groups, all of which had been comprehensively assessed (i.e. all species they comprise had been assessed) for the IUCN Red List by the end of 2016: amphibians, birds, cacti, cone snails, conifers, corals, cycads, freshwater crabs, freshwater crayfish, freshwater shrimps, mammals, mangrove plants, selected marine fish (blennies, groupers, pufferfish, wrasses), selected reptiles (chameleons, crocodiles, iguanas, tortoises, turtles), sharks and rays; plus selected birches (close to being comprehensively assessed).
All of the potential AZE trigger species in each group, and the sites to which they are restricted, are included in downloadable spreadsheets (see Forum: http://www.birdlife.org/globally-threatened-bird-forums/2017/07/aze-consultation/), coded by country and region. The location of each site can also be visualised using a dynamic web mapping interface (AZE Review 2017: https://birdlife.maps.arcgis.com/apps/webappviewer/index.html?id=37796ba0cb4a43f580465e5839567d94). This interactive tool shows the different groups assessed and allows selection by species or country. More detailed information on other functions available can be found under the information button (i) on the site.
We will review the feedback received and finalise the list of AZE trigger species and sites. We will then use them to delineate new or refined boundaries for all AZE sites. In mid-August we will post these proposed spatial AZE data for review (with a link to a separate map viewer interface), and again invite feedback from relevant experts and in particular from local stakeholders. Further instructions on the spatial data review will be posted when those data are available.
In mid-September, we will review the feedback received and finalise the spatial data set by the end of September. By the end of 2017, the updated data sets will be made available via both the new AZE website (managed by ABC) and the World Database on KBAs (http://www.keybiodiversityareas.org, managed by BirdLife on behalf of the KBA Partnership). All contributors who supply information that is used will be explicitly acknowledged on the updated AZE website.
We acknowledge that this timescale is rather tight, and apologise in advance to anyone who is unable to contribute in the time available. However, unlike the three AZE updates to date (2005, 2010 and 2017), the resulting list will not be set in stone for years once this phase is over. Another deliverable of the current project is to facilitate AZE site identification for species groups that have not yet been comprehensively assessed for the IUCN Red List, by providing an online nomination template that anyone can complete, following the documentation standards required for all KBAs. This will be made available during 2018.
Jon Paul Rodríguez, Ph.D.
Presidente / Chair / Président
Comisión para la Supervivencia de las Especies de UICN
IUCN Species Survival Commission