Skip to main content

Thank you for visiting nature.com. You are using a browser version with limited support for CSS. To obtain the best experience, we recommend you use a more up to date browser (or turn off compatibility mode in Internet Explorer). In the meantime, to ensure continued support, we are displaying the site without styles and JavaScript.

Aichi targets

Protect biodiversity, not just area

The Convention on Biological Diversity's Aichi Target 11 mandates that 17% of terrestrial and 10% of marine environments be conserved in protected areas by 2020. Such simple numeric indicators act as motivators and a measure of progress. But striving to meet the stipulated coverage should not compromise the convention's broader goal of maximizing biodiversity.

Area coverage is the only element of Target 11 that is on track, at least on land (D. P. Tittensor et al. Science 346, 241–244; 2014). Other crucial elements are effective, equitable biodiversity management; ecological representation of a mix of ecosystems; and connectivity between sites to allow species dispersal. Some species and ecosystems may be lost if implementation of these elements is delayed much longer.

Focusing on area coverage alone risks creating perverse outcomes. It encourages the proliferation of large protected areas that are under little threat, and neglects areas where protection is most needed (see go.nature.com/o5ny9j and go.nature.com/hi6qn5). If not considered in the context of other elements of Target 11, maximizing the area under protection increases the financial and political cost of meeting the same biodiversity goals. As with other global policy goals (see S. Fukuda-Parr J. Hum. Dev. Capab. 15, 118–131; 2014), the abstract global target has created unintended consequences for national conservation planning.

With negotiations beginning in 2016 for the next tranche of the convention's targets, new incentives are needed to emphasize the pivotal additional elements of Target 11.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Corresponding author

Correspondence to Megan Barnes.

Supplementary information

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Barnes, M. Protect biodiversity, not just area. Nature 526, 195 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1038/526195e

Download citation

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1038/526195e

Further reading

Search

Quick links

Nature Briefing

Sign up for the Nature Briefing newsletter — what matters in science, free to your inbox daily.

Get the most important science stories of the day, free in your inbox. Sign up for Nature Briefing