Letters to Nature

Nature 428, 640-643 (8 April 2004) | doi:10.1038/nature02422; Received 21 December 2003; Accepted 11 February 2004

Effectiveness of the global protected area network in representing species diversity

Ana S. L. Rodrigues1, Sandy J. Andelman3, Mohamed I. Bakarr4, Luigi Boitani5, Thomas M. Brooks1, Richard M. Cowling6, Lincoln D. C. Fishpool7, Gustavo A. B. da Fonseca1,8, Kevin J. Gaston9, Michael Hoffmann1, Janice S. Long2, Pablo A. Marquet10, John D. Pilgrim1, Robert L. Pressey11, Jan Schipper12, Wes Sechrest2, Simon N. Stuart2, Les G. Underhill13, Robert W. Waller1, Matthew E. J. Watts14 & Xie Yan15

  1. Center for Applied Biodiversity Science, Conservation International, Washington, DC 20036, USA
  2. IUCN-SSC/CI-CABS Biodiversity Assessment Unit, Conservation International, Washington, DC 20036, USA
  3. National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, University of California, Santa Barbara, California 93101, USA
  4. World Agroforestry Centre (ICRAF), Gigiri Nairobi, Kenya
  5. Dipartimento di Biologia Animale e dell'Uomo, Università di Roma 'La Sapienza', 00185 Rome, Italy
  6. Terrestrial Ecology Research Unit, Department of Botany, University of Port Elizabeth, Port Elizabeth 6000, South Africa
  7. BirdLife International, Cambridge CB3 0NA, UK
  8. Departmento de Zoologia, Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais, Belo Horizonte 31270, Brazil
  9. Biodiversity and Macroecology Group, Department of Animal and Plant Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield S10 2TN, UK
  10. Center for Advanced Studies in Ecology and Biodiversity (CASEB) and Departamento de Ecología, Facultad de Ciencias Biológicas, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Casilla 114-D, Santiago, Chile
  11. New South Wales Department of Environment and Conservation, Armidale, New South Wales 2350, Australia
  12. Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho 83844, USA
  13. Avian Demography Unit, Department of Statistical Sciences, University of Cape Town, Rondebosch 7701, South Africa
  14. 194W Hill Street, Walcha, New South Wales 2354, Australia
  15. Institute of Zoology, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100080, China

Correspondence to: Ana S. L. Rodrigues1 Email: a.rodrigues@conservation.org

The Fifth World Parks Congress in Durban, South Africa, announced in September 2003 that the global network of protected areas now covers 11.5% of the planet's land surface1. This surpasses the 10% target proposed a decade earlier, at the Caracas Congress2, for 9 out of 14 major terrestrial biomes1. Such uniform targets based on percentage of area have become deeply embedded into national and international conservation planning3. Although politically expedient, the scientific basis and conservation value of these targets have been questioned4, 5. In practice, however, little is known of how to set appropriate targets, or of the extent to which the current global protected area network fulfils its goal of protecting biodiversity. Here, we combine five global data sets on the distribution of species and protected areas to provide the first global gap analysis assessing the effectiveness of protected areas in representing species diversity. We show that the global network is far from complete, and demonstrate the inadequacy of uniform—that is, 'one size fits all'—conservation targets.


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