A new way to measure the value of protected areas

The Gini is out of the bottle

Protected areas are an important part of every country’s effort to halt declines in biodiversity. Indeed, as signatories to the Convention on Biological Diversity, most countries have committed to expanding their reserve system to help achieve the goal of reducing the rate of biodiversity loss. But is simply making more reserves achieving better conservation outcomes?

In an effort to demonstrate progress, countries routinely report that they are expanding their reserve system. However, as EDG researchers have shown in the past (see box on Measuring true conservation), the performance metric ‘percent of total area in protected areas’ has its problems. First, it can only go up; second,
it does not tell us how well those protected areas are managed; and third, it does not tell us how representative the protected area system is of the different kinds of habitat in a country.

A representative reserve system is one that conserves a bit of all elements of biodiversity. Although protecting ‘a bit of everything’ seems pretty straight forward, it is often not achieved because protection frequently goes to areas that are steeper, less fertile and more isolated. In other words, it’s the lands that nobody else
wants that gets placed in reserves. For example, in 2008 over 12% of the World‘s total land mass was covered by a protected area. However 4.6% of this protected land was in Greenland covering mostly snow and ice caps, which are largely inaccessible and hold little biodiversity. This illustrates that a very large protected area system might seem impressive by its very size and yet it can fail to be representative if it only includes a narrow range of biodiversity…




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