Effectiveness of the global protected area network in representing species diversity


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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Figure 1
Figure 2: Percentage of gap species in relation to endemism levels and percentage of area protected across biomes and countries.


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We thank the Moore Family Foundation, the Howard Gilman Foundation and the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis of the University of California Santa Barbara for support. The analysis was possible thanks to the combined effort of the thousands of individuals and hundreds of institutions who collected and compiled the data, or provided financial support for such efforts. We are grateful to the numerous individuals who contributed to this analysis, especially to K. Buhlmann, S. Butchart, N. Cox, P. P. van Dijk, J. Iverson, R. Kiester, T. Lacher and B. Young. H. Possingham made valuable comments on the manuscript. Figure 1 was generated by J. Seeber.

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Correspondence to Ana S. L. Rodrigues.

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The authors declare that they have no competing financial interests.

Supplementary information

Supplementary Information

Notes on: data sources and limitations; background information regarding targets based on percentage of area protected; confidence intervals for species coverage in networks of randomly distributed protected areas; comparison between protected and unprotected sites in terms of richness of all species, threatened species, and restricted-range species; and extended acknowledgements. (PDF 339 kb)

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Rodrigues, A., Andelman, S., Bakarr, M. et al. Effectiveness of the global protected area network in representing species diversity. Nature 428, 640–643 (2004). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature02422

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