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A new directory of Important Bird Areas (IBAs) in the United Kingdom's 14 Overseas Territories highlights their massive global biological importance.
The UK Overseas Territories (UKOTs) hold 34 bird species globally threatened with extinction and a further 13 species are Near-Threatened. Of these, 22 are confined to the UKOTs and a further 15 have vital breeding grounds in them.
Threatened species include the Critically Endangered Montserrat Oriole Icterus oberi, which is confined to the Caribbean island and lost more than half of its range following a devastating volcanic eruption in 1997. Seven albatross and five petrel species with important nesting populations in the Territories are affected by the impacts of longline fishing in the Southern Ocean, particularly in the south Atlantic. Invasive plants and animals have had a devastating impact on native wildlife in the Territories too.
Important Bird Areas in the United Kingdom Overseas Territories is published by the RSPB and it identifies 78 IBAs in the Territories, which stretch from Pitcairn to Bermuda, and from Gibraltar to British Antarctic Territory.
"These crown jewels for conservation hold more species of bird under the threat of extinction than the whole of Europe, and the threats to them are very real. Several birds found only in UK Overseas Territories have become extinct in recent centuries, putting the UK in the list of the world's top five countries for bird extinctions."
- Graham Wynne, Chief Executive of the RSPB