Metadata Factsheet

1. Indicator name

3.1 Coverage of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures

2. Date of metadata update

2023-06-01 12:00:00 UTC

3. Goals and Targets addressed

3a. Goal

N/A

3b. Target

Target 3. Ensure and enable that by 2030 at least 30 per cent of terrestrial and inland water areas, and of marine and coastal areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem functions and services, are effectively conserved and managed through ecologically representative, well-connected and equitably governed systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, recognizing indigenous and traditional territories, where applicable, and integrated into wider landscapes, seascapes and the ocean, while ensuring that any sustainable use, where appropriate in such areas, is fully consistent with conservation outcomes, recognizing and respecting the rights of indigenous peoples and local communities, including over their traditional territories.

4. Rationale

The protected area and OECM coverage indicator measures a policy response to biodiversity loss. An increase in protected area and OECM coverage indicates increased efforts by governments and civil society to protect land and sea areas with a view to achieve the long-term conservation of biodiversity with associated ecosystem services and cultural values. 

The indicator reflects the fact that increases in coverage are insufficient in isolation, and that protected areas and OECMs also need to be located in areas of importance for biodiversity, and cover representative areas of both terrestrial and marine ecosystems. It also reflects that protected areas and OECMs must be effective in achieving positive biodiversity outcomes.

A method for calculating the ‘by effectiveness’ component of the indicator is currently being defined by UNEP-WCMC and partners, following consultations with Parties to the CBD, experts, and representatives of indigenous peoples and local communities. The methods for calculating the ‘by KBAs’ and ‘by ecosystems’ component of the indicator are well established (see below).

5. Definitions, concepts and classifications

5a. Definition

overage by ecosystem component: The indicator shows the total percentage coverage of terrestrial and marine areas by protected areas and OECMs at the global level.

KBA component: The indicator Coverage of protected areas and OECMs shows temporal trends in the mean percentage of each important site for biodiversity (i.e., Key Biodiversity Area, sites that contribute significantly to the global persistence of biodiversity) that is covered by protected areas and Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (OECMs).

Effectiveness component: The method is currently being defined.

5b. Method of computation

Coverage by ecosystem component: UNEP-WCMC only uses points and polygons submitted to the WDPA and the WD-OECM. The majority of these sites are available for download at www.protectedplanet.net. However, due to restrictions requested by some data providers, a small number of sites are not made publicly available. These sites are still included in the analyses that generate coverage statistics.

UNEP-WCMC does not include all sites in the databases in coverage analyses. Proposed protected areas are excluded, as are sites for which the designation status has not been reported. Sites submitted as points with no reported area are also excluded. Currently, UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserves (MAB) sites reported to the WDPA are excluded, on the basis that that the MAB sites currently in the WDPA include buffer and transition zones that in many cases are not protected areas. MAB Core areas are usually protected areas designated at a national level and are therefore generally accounted for in our calculations. UNEP-WCMC is working with the MAB Secretariat to secure an accurate set of boundaries for the core areas to ensure the contribution of these sites is accurately reflected. MAB sites reported as OECMs are, however, included in coverage analyses.

The protected area coverage is calculated using the following steps:

  1. The WDPA is filtered to exclude records with the characteristics listed above.
  2. A buffer is created around protected areas reported as points using their Reported Area. There are important caveats associated with this method, some of which are explored by Visconti et al. 2013. Buffering points can underestimate or overestimate protected area coverage as the circles created around points might cover areas where protected areas do not exist (overestimation) or overlap with areas where other protected areas already exist (underestimation). It can also give inaccurate values for sites that are partly terrestrial and marine as the absence of boundaries make it difficult to predict which portion of a protected area is in the land or the sea.
  3. Both polygon and buffered point layers are combined in a single layer.
  4. The layer above is flattened (dissolved) – to eliminate overlaps between designations and avoid double counting.
  5. The global protected areas flat layer is intersected with a base map of the world. The base map used by UNEP-WCMC is a combination of Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ; VLIZ 2014) and terrestrial country boundaries (World Vector Shoreline, 3rd edition, National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency). A simplified version of this layer has been published at Nature Scientific Data journal (Brooks et al. 2016a) and is available here: http://datadryad.org/resource/doi:10.5061/dryad.6gb90.2.
  6. The intersected flat layer is converted to Mollweide (an equal area projection) and the area of each polygon is calculated, in km2.
  7. Calculated areas are summed by land, marine and Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ). Marine and coastal areas are those outlined in the EEZ dataset (see above). ABNJ constitute international waters outside the 200 nautical mile limits of national jurisdiction.
  8. The terrestrial protected area coverage is calculated by dividing the total area of terrestrial protected areas by total global terrestrial area, excluding Antarctica. ABNJ protected area coverage is calculated by selecting areas where ISO3 = 'ABNJ'. Marine and coastal protected area coverage is (total global protected areas flat coverage) - (ABNJ Area + Land Area).

The OECM coverage is calculated separately:

  1. Start with the latest WD-OECM monthly release.
  2. A buffer is created around OECMs reported as points using their Reported Area.
  3. Both polygon and buffered point layers are combined in a single layer.
  4. Areas where protected areas and OECMs overlap are erased from the OECMs layer above using the global protected areas flat layer.
  5. The output OECMs layer is flattened (dissolved).
  6. The OECMs flat layer is intersected with a base map of the world (see above)
  7. The intersected flat layer is converted to Mollweide (an equal area projection) and the area of each polygon is calculated, in km2.
  8. Calculated areas are summed by land and EEZ.

The total protected area & OECM coverage is calculated:

  1. Terrestrial protected area & OECM coverage = (total area of terrestrial protected areas + total area of terrestrial OECMs)/total global terrestrial area excluding Antarctica.
  2. Marine and coastal protected area & OECM coverage = [total global protected areas flat coverage - (ABNJ Area + Land Area)] + Marine EEZ OECM coverage.
  3. ABNJ coverage: there are currently no OECMs in ABNJ and therefore coverage will be equal to ABNJ protected area coverage.

KBA component: This indicator is calculated from data derived from a spatial overlap between digital polygons for protected areas from the World Database on Protected Areas (UNEP-WCMC & IUCN 2023), digital polygons for Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures from the World Database on OECMs and digital polygons for Key Biodiversity Areas (from the World Database of Key Biodiversity Areas, including Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas, Alliance for Zero Extinction sites, and other Key Biodiversity Areas). The value of the indicator at a given point in time, based on data on the year of protected area establishment recorded in the World Database on Protected Areas and the World Database on OECMs, is computed as the mean percentage of each Key Biodiversity Area currently recognised that is covered by protected areas and/or Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures.

Protected areas lacking digital boundaries in the World Database of Protected Areas, and those sites with a status of ‘proposed’ or ‘not reported’ are omitted. Degazetted sites are not kept in the WDPA and are also not included. Man and Biosphere Reserves are also excluded as these often contain potentially unprotected areas. Year of protected area establishment is unknown for ~12% of protected areas in the World Database on Protected Areas, generating uncertainty around changing protected area coverage over time. To reflect this uncertainty, a year was randomly assigned from another protected area within the same country, and then this procedure repeated 1,000 times, with the median plotted.

Prior to 2017, the indicator was presented as the percentage of Key Biodiversity Areas completely covered by protected areas. However, it is now presented as the mean % of each Key Biodiversity Area that is covered by protected areas in order to better reflect trends in protected area coverage for countries or regions with few or no Key Biodiversity Areas that are completely covered.

The indicator is reported for all Key Biodiversity Areas, and for marine, terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems separately, matching SDG indicators 14.5.1 and 15.1.2. Sites were classified as marine Key Biodiversity Areas by undertaking a spatial overlap between the Key Biodiversity Area polygons and an ocean raster layer (produced from the ‘adm0’ layer from the database of Global Administrative Areas (GADM 2019)), classifying any Key Biodiversity Area as a marine Key Biodiversity Area where it had ≥5% overlap with the ocean layer (hence some sites were classified as both marine and terrestrial). Sites were classified as freshwater Key Biodiversity Areas if the resident species for which they were identified were documented in the IUCN Red List as dependent on ‘Inland Water’ systems. For non-resident or migrant species, or species that shift habitats during the annual cycle, the site was tagged as freshwater if the species occurred at the site in the appropriate season of water-dependence (e.g. some species are only dependent on water during the breeding season). Sites were then screened (using the satellite imagery base layer within ArcGIS) as to whether they lay wholly in the Coastal Zone (defined here as within 10 km of the coast), and these sites were then untagged as Freshwater and instead tagged as Marine if the wetland habitats present at the site fell purely within the IUCN Habitat Classification Scheme class ‘Marine Supratidal’ (i.e. estuaries, lagoons, etc.). If the site was within the Coastal Zone, but contained a mixture of Marine Supratidal and Inland Water classes, then it was tagged as both Freshwater and Marine. Each site was then manually cross-checked against other (less comprehensively available) site attributes, such as the habitat preferences of its trigger species, the site’s name (Delta, River, Humedal, etc.), its areal coverage by different habitat types, its overlap with Ramsar Sites etc, so as to confirm or remove the freshwater tag appropriately. Some Key Biodiversity Areas qualify as both marine and terrestrial, and others qualify as both terrestrial and freshwater. Such sites are included in both of the relevant ecosystem disaggregations.

5c. Data collection method

Data on protected areas and OECMs are submitted to UNEP-WCMC by national governments. In some cases, data are submitted directly by the governance authorities of protected areas or OECMs, and are added to the WDPA or WD-OECM following a verification process. The WDPA and WD-OECM are updated monthly.

KBAs are identified nationally through inclusive and consultative processes involving government, academia, non-governmental organisations, indigenous people’s groups, and other stakeholders as appropriate, typically coordinated by KBA National Coordination Groups. Anyone with appropriate data may propose a site, but consultation with all stakeholders at the national level is required during the proposal process. Submission of proposals for KBAs to the World Database of Key Biodiversity Areas follows a systematic review process to ensure that the KBA criteria have been applied correctly and that the sites can be recognised as important for the global persistence of biodiversity. Regional Focal Points have been appointed to help KBA proposers develop proposals and then ensure they are reviewed independently. Guidance on Proposing, Reviewing, Nominating and Confirming sites has been published to help guide proposers through the development of proposals and the review process, highlighting where they can obtain help in making a proposal (see https://www.keybiodiversityareas.org/working-with-kbas/proposing-updating/proposal-process

and specific guidance at http://www.keybiodiversityareas.org/assets/35687f50ac0bcad155ab17447b48885a).

Site proposals undergo independent review. This is followed by the official site nomination with full documentation meeting the Documentation Standards for KBAs. Sites confirmed by the KBA Secretariat to qualify as KBAs are then published on the KBA Website. For further information, see http://www.keybiodiversityareas.org/working-with-kbas/proposing-updating.

5d. Accessibility of methodology

The methods are also available as metadata to SDG indicators 14.5.1 and 15.1.2 at https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/metadata. Methods for the KBA component were also published in Butchart et al (2012). The protected area indicator and its KBA and ecosystem components are calculated nationally, regionally and globally.

See References

5e. Data sources

Protected area data are compiled by ministries of environment and other ministries responsible for the designation and maintenance of protected areas. Protected area data are aggregated globally into the World Database on Protected Areas by the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre, according to the mandate for production of the United Nations List of Protected Areas (UN Economic and Social Council, 1959; Deguignet et al. 2014). They are disseminated through Protected Planet, which is a joint product of IUCN and UNEP, managed by UNEP-WCMC.

OECMs are collated in the World Database of Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (WD-OECM). This database can be regarded as a sister database to the WDPA as it is also hosted on Protected Planet. Furthermore, the databases share many of the same fields and have an almost identical workflow; differing only in what they list. OECMs are a quickly evolving area of work, as such for the latest information on OECMs and the WD-OECM please contact UNEP-WCMC.

KBAs are identified nationally through multi-stakeholder processes involving government, academia, non-governmental organisations, indigenous people’s groups, and other stakeholders as appropriate, typically coordinated by KBA National Coordination Groups, following standard criteria and thresholds. Key Biodiversity Areas data are aggregated into the World Database on Key Biodiversity Areas, managed by BirdLife International on behalf of the KBA Partnership, and made freely available through the KBA website at www.keybiodiversityareas.org.

5f. Availability and release calendar

The component on coverage by ecosystem is published on the Protected Planet website each month.

The component on protected area coverage of important sites for biodiversity is updated annually using the latest versions of the datasets on protected areas, OECMs and Key Biodiversity Areas.

5g. Time series

1819 – current year

5h. Data providers

See Data sources.

5i. Data compilers

UNEP-WCMC, IUCN and BirdLife International

Protected area data are aggregated globally into the World Database on Protected Areas by the UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre, according to the mandate for production of the United Nations List of Protected Areas (UN Economic and Social Council, 1959; Deguignet et al. 2014). They are disseminated through Protected Planet, which is managed by UNEP-WCMC. Key Biodiversity Areas data are aggregated into the World Database of Key Biodiversity Areas, managed by BirdLife International.

5j. Gaps in data coverage

Quality control criteria are applied to ensure consistency and comparability of the data in the World Database on Protected Areas and WD-OECM. New data are validated at UNEP-WCMC through a number of tools and translated into the standard data structure of the World Database on Protected Areas and WD-OECM. Discrepancies between the data in the World Database on Protected Areas and WD-OECM and new data are minimised by provision of a manual (UNEP-WCMC 2019) and resolved in communication with data providers. Similar processes apply for the incorporation of data into the World Database of Key Biodiversity Areas (BirdLife International 2023), and the KBA Proposal, Review, Nomination and Confirmation process involves a number of steps to ensure that the data are valid and the KBA criteria have been appropriately applied.

Data and knowledge gaps can arise due to difficulties in determining whether a site conforms to the IUCN definition of a protected area or the CBD definition of an Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measure. However, given that both are incorporated into the indicator, misclassifications (as one or the other) do not impact the calculated indicator value. Non-state governed protected areas are under-represented in the WDPA. The majority of countries have not yet reported OECMs.

Regarding important sites, the biggest limitation is that site identification to date has focused mainly on specific subsets of biodiversity, for example birds (for Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas) and highly threatened species (for Alliance for Zero Extinction sites). While Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas have been documented to be good surrogates for biodiversity more generally (Brooks et al. 2001, Pain et al. 2005), the application of the unified standard for identification of Key Biodiversity Areas (IUCN 2016) sites across different levels of biodiversity (genes, species, ecosystems) and different taxonomic groups remains a high priority, building from efforts to date (Eken et al. 2004, Knight et al. 2007, Langhammer et al. 2007, Foster et al. 2012). Birds now comprise less than 50% of the species for which Key Biodiversity Areas have been identified, and as Key Biodiversity Area identification for other taxa and elements of biodiversity proceeds, such bias will become a less important consideration in the future.

Key Biodiversity Area identification has been validated for a number of countries and regions where comprehensive biodiversity data allow formal calculation of the site importance (or “irreplaceability”) using systematic conservation planning techniques (Di Marco et al. 2016, Montesino Pouzols et al. 2014).

Future developments of the indicator will include: a) expansion of the taxonomic coverage of marine Key Biodiversity Areas through application of the Key Biodiversity Areas standard (IUCN 2016) to a wide variety of marine vertebrates, invertebrates, plants and ecosystem type; b) improvements in the data on protected areas by continuing to increase the proportion of sites with documented dates of designation and with digitised boundary polygons (rather than coordinates); and c) increased documentation of Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures in the World Database of OECMs.

5k. Treatment of missing values

At country level

Data are available for protected areas and Key Biodiversity Areas in all of the world’s countries, and so no imputation or estimation of national level data is necessary.

At regional and global levels

Global and regional versions of the indicators are generated from all countries globally or in the relevant region, and so while there is uncertainty around the data, there are no missing values as such and so no need for imputation or estimation.

6. Scale

6a. Scale of use

Scale of application: Global, Regional, National

Scale of data disaggregation/aggregation:

Global/ regional scale indicator can be disaggregated to national level:

National data is collated to form global indicator: Yes

6b. National/regional indicator production

For coverage by ecosystem, the following method is used:

  1. Start with the latest WDPA monthly release.
  2. The WDPA is filtered to exclude records with the characteristics listed in section 5b.
  3. A buffer is created around protected areas reported as points using their Reported Area. There are important caveats associated with this method, some of which are explored by Visconti et al. 2013. Buffering points can underestimate or overestimate protected area coverage as the circles created around points might cover areas where protected areas do not exist (overestimation) or overlap with areas where other protected areas already exist (underestimation). It can also give inaccurate values for sites that are partly terrestrial and marine as the absence of boundaries make it difficult to predict which portion of a protected area is in the land or the sea.
  4. Both polygon and buffered point layers are combined in a single layer.
  5. The layer above is flattened (dissolved) by country/territory to remove overlaps between designations within countries/territories and avoid double counting (please note that this retains overlaps between countries and should therefore only be used to calculate national, not regional or global, coverage.
  6. Transboundary sites (those that are attributed to multiple countries) are split geographically according to where each part of the protected area is located and are then allocated to the corresponding countries/territories using the base map of the world (see section 5b).
  7. The flattened output is intersected with a base map of the world (see section 5b)
  8. The intersected output is converted to Mollweide (an equal area projection) and the land and EEZ protected area of every country and territory is calculated, in km2.
  9. The terrestrial protected area coverage is calculated for each country or territory by dividing the total area of terrestrial protected areas by total terrestrial area of that country/territory. The marine and coastal protected area coverage is calculated for each country or territory by dividing the total marine and coastal area of protected areas by total marine and coastal area of that country/territory.

The national OECM coverage is calculated separately:

  1. Start with the latest WD-OECM monthly release.
  2. A buffer is created around OECMs reported as points using their Reported Area.
  3. Both polygon and buffered point layers are combined in a single layer.
  4. Areas where protected areas and OECMs overlap are erased from the OECMs layer above using the global protected areas flat layer.
  5. The output OECMs layer is flattened (dissolved) by country/territory to eliminate overlaps between areas and avoid double counting.
  6. The OECMs flattened layer is intersected with a base map of the world (see section 5b)
  7. The intersected flat layer is converted to Mollweide (an equal area projection) and the land and EEZ OECM area of every country and territory is calculated, in km2.

The national total protected area & OECM coverage for each country and territory is calculated:

  1. National terrestrial protected area & OECM coverage = (national total area of terrestrial protected areas + national total area of terrestrial OECMs) / total terrestrial area of the country/territory.
  2. National marine and coastal protected area & OECM coverage = (national total area of marine and coastal protected areas + national total area of marine and coastal OECMs) / total marine and coastal area of the country/territory.

Regional indices are calculated as the mean percentage of each Key Biodiversity Area in the region covered by (i.e. overlapping with) protected areas and/or Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures: in other words, the percentage of each Key Biodiversity Area covered by these designations, averaged over all Key Biodiversity Areas in the particular region.

6c. Sources of differences between global and national figures

National processes provide the data that are incorporated into the World Database on Protected Areas, the World Database on Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures, and the World Database of Key Biodiversity Areas, so there are very few discrepancies between national indicators and the global one. One minor source of difference is that the World Database on Protected Areas incorporates internationally-designated protected areas (e.g., UNESCO World Heritage sites, Ramsar sites, etc), a few of which are not considered by their sovereign nations to be protected areas.

Note that because countries do not submit comprehensive data on degazetted protected areas to the WDPA, earlier values of the indictor may marginally underestimate coverage. Furthermore, there is also a lag between the point at which a protected area is designated on the ground and the point at which it is reported to the WDPA. As such, current or recent coverage may also be underestimated.

6d. Regional and global estimates & data collection for global monitoring

6d.1 Description of the methodology

See above for the methods for calculating coverage by ecosystem and by KBAs for regions and globally. Protected Areas and Key Biodiversity Areas in Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJs) are included in the global versions of these indicators, but not for national or regional versions.

6d.2 Additional methodological details

N/A

6d.3 Description of the mechanism for collecting data from countries

N/A

7. Other MEAs, processes and organisations

7a. Other MEA and processes

Marine versions of the indicator are the same as SDG indicator 14.5.1. Terrestrial and freshwater versions are the same as SDG indicator 15.1.2. Note also that SDG indicator 15.4.1 represents a version of the KBA component for sites of important mountain biodiversity. Relevant subsets of the KBA component are also used by daughter agreements of the Convention on Migratory Species (e.g. African-Eurasian Waterbird Agreement, Raptors MOU), UNCCD. The protected area coverage and KBA component were also reported in the IPBES Global Assessment and each of the Regional Assessments.

7b. Biodiversity Indicator Partnership

Yes

8. Disaggregation

Can be disaggregated spatially at regional and national scales and temporally by year.

9. Related goals, targets and indicators

Closely relates to Target 1 Complementary indicator “Percentage of spatial plans utilizing information on key biodiversity areas”, Target 2 & 3 Complementary indicator “Status of Key Biodiversity Areas”, and Target 3 Complementary indicator “Extent to which protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs) cover Key Biodiversity Areas that are important for migratory species”.

10. Data reporter

10a. Organisation

UN Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC)

BirdLife International (BLI)

International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)

10b. Contact person(s)

Heather Bingham Heather.Bingham@unep-wcmc.org

11. References

These metadata are based on https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/metadata/files/Metadata-15-01-02.pdf, and https://unstats.un.org/sdgs/metadata/files/Metadata-14-05-01.pdf, supplemented by https://www.bipindicators.net/indicators/coverage-of-protected-areas-terrestrial-and-marine, https://www.bipindicators.net/indicators/protected-area-coverage-of-key-biodiversity-areas , https://www.protectedplanet.net/en/resources/calculating-protected-area-coverage and the references listed below.

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BROOKS, T. et al. (2001). Conservation priorities for birds and biodiversity: do East African Important Bird Areas represent species diversity in other terrestrial vertebrate groups? Ostrich suppl. 15: 3–12. Available from: http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.2989/00306520109485329#.VafbVJPVq75. 

BROOKS, T.M., et al. (2016a). Analysing Biodiversity and Conservation Knowledge Products to Support Regional Environmental Assessments. Scientific Data 3(1). Available from: www.nature.com/articles/sdata20167, https://doi.org/10.1038/sdata.2016.7.

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CBD (2018). Protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures. Decision 14/8 adopted by the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity. Available at https://www.cbd.int/doc/decisions/cop-14/cop-14-dec-08-en.pdf

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DUDLEY, N. (2008). Guidelines for Applying Protected Area Management Categories. International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Gland, Switzerland. Available from https://portals.iucn.org/library/node/9243

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IUCN (2016). A Global Standard for the Identification of Key Biodiversity Areas. International Union for Conservation of Nature, Gland, Switzerland. Available from https://portals.iucn.org/library/node/46259. 

IUCN-WCPA Task Force on OECMs (2019). Recognising and reporting other effective area-based conservation measures. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN.

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