Maria Lumbierres

I’m a Ph.D. fellow at the Global Mammal Assessment, Sapienza Università di Roma. I’m working in Key Biodiversity Areas.
My research interests include strategic conservation planning, spatial analysis, time series analysis and remote sensing.

PhD project: Where will further Key Biodiversity Areas be identified? A modelling approach to focus efforts

Key Biodiversity Areas (KBA) are 'sites contributing significantly to the global persistence of biodiversity’, in terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecosystems (IUCN 2016). The Global Standard for the Identification of Key Biodiversity Areas (IUCN 2016) sets out globally agreed criteria for the identification of KBAs worldwide. Sites qualify as global KBAs if they meet one or more of 11 criteria, clustered into five categories: threatened biodiversity; geographically restricted biodiversity; ecological integrity; biological processes; and, irreplaceability. Although not all KBA criteria may be relevant to all elements of biodiversity, the thresholds associated with each of the criteria may be applied across all taxonomic groups (other than micro-organisms) and ecosystems (IUCN 2016). Most of the c. 15,500 currently recognised Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) have been identified using data on birds, the taxon for which data are more readily available (BirdLife International 2018). The KBA programme, launched in 2016 by the KBA Partnership KBA Partnership (including BirdLife International and IUCN) is stimulating effort to identify KBAs for a range of additional vertebrate, invertebrate and plant taxa, many of which are very poorly known in terms of their distribution and abundance. The distribution of existing KBAs is likely to be structured by variables such as altitude, habitat, climate, or levels of human disturbance. Understanding this structure can therefore guide efforts for identifying future new KBAs in poorly known regions and for poorly studied taxa. This project will use species data for KBAs in at least 10 Biodiversity Hotspots worldwide, including data for birds, other vertebrates and selected plant and invertebrate groups, to i) understand the physical, environmental and human variables affecting KBA distribution; ii) explore the utility of Extent of Suitable Habitat maps for identifying KBAs under the different KBA, particularly criterion E, and iii) use the results of the previous two modules to develop predictions of where as-yet-undescribed KBAs may exist in order to focus future KBA identification efforts.

Related references

  • BirdLife International (2018) The World Database of Key Biodiversity Areas. Developed by the Key Biodiversity Areas Partnership: BirdLife International, IUCN, Amphibian Survival Alliance, Conservation International, Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, Global Environment Facility, Global Wildlife Conservation, NatureServe, Rainforest Trust, Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, World Wildlife Fund and Wildlife Conservation Society. Available at
  • Butchart, SHM, et al. Global biodiversity: indicators of recent declines. Science 328.5982 (2010): 1164-1168.
  • IUCN. (2012). IUCN Red List Categories and Criteria: Version 3.1. Second edition. Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK: IUCN. iv + 32pp.
  • IUCN. (2016). A global standard for the identification of Key Biodiversity Areas.  Gland, Switzerland.
  • Rondinini, C, et al. (2011). Global habitat suitability models of terrestrial mammals. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London B: Biological Sciences 366.1578: 2633-2641.

Academic Host

Sapienza Università di Roma
Rome, Italy
Carlo Rondinini


BirdLife International
Cambridge, UK
Paul F. Donald
Stu Butchart