Marine and Coastal Biodiversity

Ecologically or Biologically Significant Marine Areas (EBSAs)

In order to protect, preserve and sustainably use marine biodiversity, we need to know where to focus and prioritize conservation and management efforts. This knowledge must be based on a sound understanding of the many different types of marine ecosystems in different regions, including which areas are the richest in life, which boast the greatest diversity and abundance of species, and which possess the rarest species and the most unique communities of marine flora and fauna.

Describing and identifying such special places in the ocean has been the core focus of the work under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) on ecologically or biologically significant marine areas (EBSAs). An EBSA is an area of the ocean that has special importance in terms of its ecological and/or biological characteristics, for example, as essential habitats, food sources or breeding grounds for particular species. These areas can include seabed habitats from the coastline to deep ocean trenches, and can be located at a variety of depths in the water column from the surface to the abyss.

In an effort spanning more than a decade, over 300 of these special marine areas have been described around the world, through a scientific and technical process involving more than 500 experts from 144 countries. EBSAs are described on the basis of whether or not they meet one or more of seven internationally agreed scientific criteria. The process is facilitated through a series of regional expert workshops convened by the CBD that bring together scientists and key data holders from a range of stakeholder organizations, including governments, intergovernmental and non-governmental organizations, research institutions, and indigenous peoples and local communities. A systematic review process culminates in the EBSA descriptions being considered by the Conference of the Parties to the CBD before formal identification as EBSAs.

For more information on EBSAs, please visit the EBSA website.