Programme Officer, Protected Areas Programme
Assistant Programme Officer, Protected Areas Programme
United Nations Environment Programme-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC)
Telephone: +44 (0)1223 277314
Fax: +44 (0)1223 277136
219 Huntingdon Road
Cambridge, CB3 0DL, UK
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
The units of measure in this indicator are terrestrial protected areas as well as marine protected areas in territorial waters (up to 12 nautical miles from the coast). The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) defines a protected area as ‘a clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values’ (Dudley, 2008).
This indicator is calculated using all protected areas recorded in the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) in August 2014 whose location and extent is known. The WDPA is held within a Geographic Information System (GIS) that stores information about protected areas such as their name, type and date of designation, documented area, geographic location (point) and/or boundary (polygon).
A GIS analysis is used to calculate terrestrial and marine protection. For this a global protected area layer is created by combining the polygons and points recorded in the WDPA. Buffers are created around points based on the known extent of protected areas for which no polygon is available. Annual protected area layers are created by dissolving the global protected area layer by the known year of establishment of protected areas recorded in the WDPA. The annual protected area layers are overlaid with country/territory boundaries, coastlines and buffered coastlines (delineating the territorial waters) to obtain the absolute coverage (in square kilometers) of protected areas by country/territory per year from 1990 to present. The marine category includes waters from the country coastline to 200 nautical miles. The total area of a country’s/territory’s terrestrial protected areas and marine protected areas in territorial waters is divided by the total area of its land areas (including inland waters) and territorial waters to obtain the relative coverage (percentage) of protected areas.
The extent to which the land areas, including inland waters, and territorial waters of a country/territory are protected is a useful indicator of Government’s will to protect biodiversity. However, it is neither an indication of how well managed the terrestrial and marine protected areas are, nor confirmation that protection measures are effectively enforced. Further, the indicator does not provide information on non-designated protected areas that may also be important for conserving biodiversity.
There are known data and knowledge gaps for some countries/regions due to difficulties in reporting national protected area data to the WDPA and/or determining whether a site conforms to the IUCN definition of a protected area.
UNEP-WCMC aggregates the global and regional figures for this indicator from the national figures calculated through GIS analysis. The global, regional and national figures provided by UNEP-WCMC are therefore consistent. Gaps and/or time lags in reporting national protected area data to the WDPA can however result in discrepancies between the national figures provided by UNEP-WCMC and national figures available from national agencies.
The data source for this indicator is the WDPA, the most comprehensive global dataset on marine and terrestrial protected areas available. The WDPA is a joint initiative of UNEP and IUCN, prepared and managed by UNEP-WCMC working with IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas, Governments, the Secretariats of Multilateral Environmental Agreements, and collaborating Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs).
The process followed to produce the UN List of Protected Areas, which last version was published in 2014, is a major source of information on the world’s protected areas. As part of this process, UNEP-WCMC requests national agencies to review the data in the WDPA for their country/territory as well as to provide new data. In the intervening period between UN Lists, UNEP-WCMC works closely with national agencies and NGOs, continually updating the WDPA as new data become available.
Quality control criteria are applied to ensure consistency and comparability of the data in the WDPA. New data are validated at UNEP-WCMC through a number of tools and translated into the standard data structure of the WDPA. Discrepancies between the data in the WDPA and new data are resolved in communication with data providers. Processed data is fully integrated into the published WDPA which is made available online through www.protected planet.net .
Protected areas with unknown location and/or extent are excluded from the GIS analysis and statistics. Protected areas with unknown year of establishment are included in the GIS analysis and statistics for every year from 1990 to present. This is the only way to avoid double counting spatial overlaps between dated and undated protected areas. Where no new data is received for a country/territory during a year, protected area coverage is assumed to be equal to the previous year.
Data availability, both in terms of quantity and quality, is improving but not even across the globe. Data on terrestrial protected area coverage are available for over 220 countries/territories and data on marine protected area coverage are available for 170 countries/territories with marine areas. Both terrestrial and marine data can be aggregated in many ways (e.g. by MDG regions).
UNEP-WCMC aggregates the global and regional figures for this indicator from the national figures calculated through GIS analysis. Countries/territories (e.g. Antarctica) that do not fall into the MDG regions are added to the world total.
The WDPA is published in a monthly basis. The data in the WDPA is freely available for non-commercial use from http://www.protectedplanet.net. The MDG statistics are compiled based on the annual publication of the WDPA and submitted to the UN Statistics Division. The time lag between reception of new data and production of the MDG statistics is up to one year.
IUCN and UNEP-WCMC (2014). Guidelines for Applying Protected Area Management Categories. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland.
UNEP and IUCN (2014). The World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) [On-line]. August 2014. Cambridge, UK: UNEP-WCMC.Available at http://www.protectedplanet.net.
UNEP-WCMC (2014). Global statistics from the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA). Cambridge, UK: UNEP- WCMC.
UNEP-WCMC (2015). World Database on Protected Areas User Manual 1.0. UNEP-WCMC: Cambridge, UK. Available at: http://www.unep-wcmc.org.