Letter | Published:

Global protected area expansion is compromised by projected land-use and parochialism

Nature volume 516, pages 383386 (18 December 2014) | Download Citation

Abstract

Protected areas are one of the main tools for halting the continuing global biodiversity crisis1,2,3,4 caused by habitat loss, fragmentation and other anthropogenic pressures5,6,7,8. According to the Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 adopted by the Convention on Biological Diversity, the protected area network should be expanded to at least 17% of the terrestrial world by 2020 (http://www.cbd.int/sp/targets). To maximize conservation outcomes, it is crucial to identify the best expansion areas. Here we show that there is a very high potential to increase protection of ecoregions and vertebrate species by expanding the protected area network, but also identify considerable risk of ineffective outcomes due to land-use change and uncoordinated actions between countries. We use distribution data for 24,757 terrestrial vertebrates assessed under the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) ‘red list of threatened species’9, and terrestrial ecoregions10 (827), modified by land-use models for the present and 2040, and introduce techniques for global and balanced spatial conservation prioritization. First, we show that with a coordinated global protected area network expansion to 17% of terrestrial land, average protection of species ranges and ecoregions could triple. Second, if projected land-use change by 2040 (ref. 11) takes place, it becomes infeasible to reach the currently possible protection levels, and over 1,000 threatened species would lose more than 50% of their present effective ranges worldwide. Third, we demonstrate a major efficiency gap between national and global conservation priorities. Strong evidence is shown that further biodiversity loss is unavoidable unless international action is quickly taken to balance land-use and biodiversity conservation. The approach used here can serve as a framework for repeatable and quantitative assessment of efficiency, gaps and expansion of the global protected area network globally, regionally and nationally, considering current and projected land-use pressures.

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Acknowledgements

F.M.P., T.T., E.D.M., A.S.K., P.K., J.L. and A.M. thank the European Research Council Starting Grant (ERC-StG) 260393 (Global Environmental Decision Analysis, GEDA), the Academy of Finland centre of excellence programme 2012–2017 and the Natural Heritage Services (Metsähallitus) for support. P.H.V. thanks the ERC grant 311819 (GLOLAND). We thank A. Santangeli, I. Hanski and H. Tuomisto for comments on the manuscript, and CSC-IT Center for Science Ltd, administered by the Ministry of Education, Science and Culture of Finland, for its support and high-performance computing services. We are grateful for the efforts of data providers, IUCN, BirdLife International, Conservation International, the IUCN Species Survival Commission Specialist Groups and IUCN Red List Partners, the World Wildlife Fund, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) World Conservation Monitoring Centre and the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas, and their partners and contributors for kindly providing publicly available data, without which this and many other studies would not have been possible.

Author information

Author notes

    • Federico Montesino Pouzols

    Present address: Rutherford Appleton Laboratory, Science & Technology Facilities Council, Harwell Oxford Campus, Didcot OX11 0QX, UK.

    • Federico Montesino Pouzols
    •  & Tuuli Toivonen

    These authors contributed equally to this work.

Affiliations

  1. Finnish Centre of Excellence in Metapopulation Biology, Department of Biosciences, Biocenter 3, University of Helsinki, PO Box 65 (Viikinkaari 1), FI-00014 Helsinki, Finland

    • Federico Montesino Pouzols
    • , Tuuli Toivonen
    • , Enrico Di Minin
    • , Aija S. Kukkala
    • , Peter Kullberg
    • , Johanna Kuusterä
    • , Joona Lehtomäki
    •  & Atte Moilanen
  2. Department of Geosciences and Geography, University of Helsinki, PO Box 64 (Gustaf Hällströmin katu 2a), FI-00014 Helsinki, Finland

    • Tuuli Toivonen
    •  & Henrikki Tenkanen
  3. Department of Life Sciences, University of KwaZulu-Natal, University Road, Private Bag X54001, Durban 4000, South Africa

    • Enrico Di Minin
  4. Regional Council of Helsinki-Uusimaa, Esterinportti 2 B, FI-00240 Helsinki, Finland

    • Johanna Kuusterä
  5. Institute for Environmental Studies, VU University Amsterdam, De Boelelaan 1087, 1081 HV Amsterdam, The Netherlands

    • Peter H. Verburg

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Contributions

F.M.P., T.T. and A.M. wrote the manuscript, with contributions from all authors. F.M.P., T.T., E.D.M., J.L., P.K. and A.M. designed the study. A.M. conceived and led the study. F.M.P. and T.T. analysed the data and prepared the figures and tables. F.M.P. implemented prioritization algorithms and analyses. T.T., E.D.M., A.S.K., P.K., J.K., J.L., H.T. and F.M.P. collected and processed the data. P.H.V. contributed land-use models and data. T.T., E.D.M., A.S.K., P.K., J.K., J.L., H.T. and F.M.P. collected and processed the data.

Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding authors

Correspondence to Federico Montesino Pouzols or Tuuli Toivonen or Atte Moilanen.

Original results data and additional interactive visualizations are available online at http://avaa.tdata.fi/web/cbig/.

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    Supplementary Information

    This file contains Supplementary Text and Data 1-6, which include Supplementary Figures 1-56 and Supplementary Tables 1-24 – see Contents for more information.

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https://doi.org/10.1038/nature14032

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