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March 23rd, 2009
GIS Helps California Audubon Identify Essential Bird Habitat

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PR – Conservationists, bird
watchers, farmers, and developers across the state of California can now access
bird habitat information from a digital bank of maps and data created with
ESRI’s geographic information system (GIS) technology. Commissioned by the National
Audubon Society and BirdLife International, the Important Bird Areas (IBA)
program designates locations essential for breeding, wintering, and/or
migrating birds. Conservation activities at these sites include land
acquisition, habitat restoration, advocacy on behalf of IBA, and education to
local communities about their unique birds and bird habitats.

Through
the Audubon California Web site (www.ca.audubon.org/iba), users can now quickly
find answers to questions such as, What is the total acreage of all IBA land?
Who are the major land owners? What percentage of IBA designations are in some
form of protection?

Through
a partnership between Audubon California and California Polytechnic State
University, the maps and database supporting the California IBA project were
created by David Yun, GIS supervisor for the City of San Luis Obispo, and a
group of students from Cal Poly’s Natural Resources Management Department. The
team used ESRI’s suite of ArcGIS software, designed to help users organize,
visualize, and analyze layers of disparate geographic data with dynamic maps
and geodatabases.

"ArcGIS
Desktop
provided the most complete set of tools required to complete
our mapping project," said Andrea Jones, director of the Important Bird Areas program for Audubon
California.
"Two critical ArcGIS Desktop applications were
ArcCatalog and ArcMap. We used ArcCatalog to manage all GIS layers, and ArcMap
to digitize boundaries, analyze data, and create maps and graphics."

With
GIS, the IBA maps brought together topographic maps from the U.S. Geological
Survey; wildlife habitat relationship data from the California Department of
Fish and Game; digital photographs from the National Agriculture Imagery
Program (NAIP); and shapefiles of protected and conservation lands, counties,
roads, and waterways from the California Spatial Information Library.

More
than 10,000 IBA sites in nearly 200 countries and territories have been
identified since the IBA program’s inception in the 1980s. Bird-Life
International estimates that hundreds of sites and millions of acres have
received better protection as a result of the IBA program. A major objective of
the IBA program is the protection of vulnerable birds. Of particular concern
are species that are not widely distributed or are concentrated in one general
habitat type or biome; and individual or groups of species, such as waterfowl
or shorebirds, that congregate at high densities due to their gregarious
behavior.

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