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© Arno Meintjes

Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) Sites

Global list of sites where species are in imminent danger of disappearing

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Source: Alliance for Zero Extinction (2010). 2010 AZE Update. www.zeroextinction.org

Description

Alliance for Zero Extinction (AZE) sites are identified as critical for the survival of one or more globally identified endangered and critically endangered species. The Alliance itself is formed of sixty-eight biodiversity conservation institutions from twenty countries. The identification of these sites is an important step in the goal of the Alliance of preventing extinction. Following identification, the Alliance aims to act together to eliminate threats and restore habitat at these sites to allow species populations to rebound. The focus of AZEs is on species that face extinction either because their last remaining habitat is being degraded at a local level, or because their restricted global range makes them especially vulnerable to external threats.

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Supported by

The Alliance for Zero Extinction – a joint initiative of 88 non-governmental biodiversity conservation organizations around the world.

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Year of creation

2003

Coverage

Global in extent, with 587 identified site-scale areas, where 920 endangered species reside.1 The AZE list is regularly updated to include new sites and species.

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Criteria

There are three criteria to identify AZE sites.2

  1. Must contain at least one endangered or critically endangered species, as listed on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. A site cannot be designated on the basis of unlisted or unevaluated species, data deficient species, or vulnerable species. A site may be designated as the only suitable reintroduction site for a species assessed as extinct in the wild; only two sites were triggered by this criterion.
  2. Must (i) be the sole area where an endangered or critically endangered species occurs, (ii) contain the overwhelmingly significant known resident population of the species (more than 95% of the global population), or (iii) contain the overwhelmingly significant known population for one life-history segment (e.g., breeding or non-breeding) of the species.
  3. Must have a definable boundary, within which habitats, biological communities, or management issues share more in common with each other than they do with those in adjacent areas (e.g., a single lake, mountaintop, or forest fragment). The boundary of each area is based on the most practical conservation unit, including considerations of contiguous habitat, management units, and the potential for significant gene flow among populations. There is no explicit size criterion for sites, but the median size of sites for which size information is available is 12,060 hectares.
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Management:

There is no management prescribed for AZE sites. Globally, about 34% of AZE sites are fully contained, and 15 % sites are partially contained within legally protected areas. The management of such sites varies according to the type of protected area they are part of. Of the remaining sites, 43% lack any protection, and the status of 8% is not known.1 Due to their small size, these sites are highly susceptible to human activities in the surrounding landscape. The mean human footprint, an aggregate index of human land use, human population and infrastructure at AZE sites is two and a half times the global mean, indicating a high level of threat.1 For this reason these sites have been identified as irreplaceable targets for a global network of protected areas.

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Business relevance:

Legal and compliance – Identification of an area as an AZE site does not automatically lead to legal protection or recognition by national government. However, in some cases these sites are located within existing protected areas, or indeed lead to the designation of additional protected areas, and therefore are afforded legal protection. Although not explicitly referred to, AZE sites meet the criteria for critical habitat defined within the safeguard standards of some financial institutions such as the International Finance Corporation (IFC). IFC funded projects within such areas thereby have to meet the requirements specified by the bank’s Performance Standards for the protection of such habitats, which includes no reduction in the population of critically endangered or endangered species3 In addition, AZE sites are also referred to in the standards of some certification schemes. The Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB) classify these areas as ‘no-go’ under their guidelines for environmental and social impact assessment,4 and others, including the Climate and Community and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA)5 standard and the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC)6 principles, refer to AZE sites under the Key Biodiversity Area approach as sites where measurable biodiversity benefits can be delivered.

BiodiversityAZE sites are of very high biodiversity importance as they are identified based on the criteria of both high vulnerability and high irreplaceability of species. Their main aim is to prevent extinctions by identifying and safeguarding key sites where species are in imminent danger of disappearing. AZE sites are identified at the site-scale based on existing protected areas, concessions and management units, and are therefore of high relevance for mitigating and avoiding risk from biodiversity loss and identifying opportunities to be associated with conservation activities.

Social and cultural values – The AZE sites are not identified based on recognition of any traditional practices, cultural values, rights or involvement of local/indigenous communities in protection, use and management.

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Tools:

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References/Websites:

  1. Ricketts TH, Dinerstein E, Boucher T, Brooks TM, Butchart SHM, Hoffmann M, Lamoreux JF, Morrison J, Parr M, Pilgrim JD. 2005. Pinpointing and preventing imminent extinctions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 102(51):18497-18501.
  2. Official website for the Alliance, which includes a database of sites on a Google Map interface.
  3. IFC (2012) Performance Standard 6 Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Natural Resource Management. International Finance Corporation, Washington D.C., U.S.A.
  4. RSB (2011) Consolidated RSB EU RED Principles & Criteria for Sustainable Biofuel Production v2.0. Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels. Lausanne, Switzerland
  5. CCBA. 2008. Climate, Community & Biodiversity Project Design Standards, Second Edition. CCBA, Arlington, VA, U.S.A
  6. The Responsible Jewellery Council (2009) Principles and Code of Practices Version 3. Responsible Jewellery Council, London, U.K.
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