15.1.2 Important Sites for Freshwater Biodiversity Covered by Protected Areas
Target 15.1: By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands, in line with obligations under international agreements
Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss
Custodian Organization: UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC, BirdLife International (BLI) & International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
Tier Classification: Tier I
To facilitate the implementation of the global indicator framework, all indicators are classified by the IAEG-SDGs (Inter-Agency and Expert Group on Sustainable Development Goals Indicators) into three tiers on the basis of their level of methodological development and the availability of data at the global level, as follows:
Tier I: Indicator is conceptually clear, has an internationally established methodology and standards are available, and data are regularly produced by countries for at least 50 per cent of countries and of the population in every region where the indicator is relevant.
Tier II: Indicator is conceptually clear, has an internationally established methodology and standards are available, but data are not regularly produced by countries.
Tier III: No internationally established methodology or standards are yet available for the indicator, but methodology/standards are being (or will be) developed or tested.
Definition: This indicator Proportion of important sites for terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity that are covered by protected areas shows temporal trends in the mean percentage of each important site for terrestrial and freshwater biodiversity (i.e., those that contribute significantly to the global persistence of biodiversity) that is covered by designated protected areas.
Concepts: Protected areas, as defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN; Dudley 2008), are clearly defined geographical spaces, 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. Importantly, a variety of specific management objectives are recognised within this definition, spanning conservation, restoration, and sustainable use:
- Category Ia: Strict nature reserve
- Category Ib: Wilderness area
- Category II: National park
- Category III: Natural monument or feature
- Category IV: Habitat/species management area
- Category V: Protected landscape/seascape
- Category VI: Protected area with sustainable use of natural resources
The status “designated” is attributed to a protected area when the corresponding authority, according to national legislation or common practice (e.g., by means of an executive decree or the like), officially endorses a document of designation. The designation must be made for the purpose of biodiversity conservation, not de facto protection arising because of some other activity (e.g., military).
Sites contributing significantly to the global persistence of biodiversity are identified following globally standard criteria for the identification of Key Biodiversity Areas (IUCN 2016) applied at national levels. Two variants of these standard criteria have been applied in all countries to date. The first is for the identification of Important Bird & Biodiversity Areas, that is, sites contributing significantly to the global persistence of biodiversity, identified using data on birds, of which >12,000 sites in total have been identified from all of the world’s countries (BirdLife International 2014). The second is for the identification of Alliance for Zero Extinction sites (Ricketts et al. 2005), that is, sites holding effectively the entire population of at least one species assessed as Critically Endangered or Endangered on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. In total, 587 Alliance for Zero Extinction sites have been identified for 920 species of mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles, conifers, and reef-building corals. A global standard for the identification of Key Biodiversity Areas unifying these approaches along with other mechanisms for identification of important sites for other species and ecosystems was approved by IUCN (2016).
Rationale: The safeguard of important sites is vital for stemming the decline in biodiversity and ensuring long term and sustainable use of terrestrial and freshwater natural resources. The establishment of protected areas is an important mechanism for achieving this aim, and this indicator serves as a means of measuring progress toward the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands, in line with obligations under international agreements. Importantly, while it can be disaggregated to report on any given single ecosystem of interest (e.g., forests), it is not restricted to any single ecosystem type, and so faithfully reflects the intent of SDG target 15.1.
Levels of access to protected areas vary among the protected area management categories. Some areas, such as scientific reserves, are maintained in their natural state and closed to any other use. Others are used for recreation or tourism, or even open for the sustainable extraction of natural resources. In addition to protecting biodiversity, protected areas have high social and economic value: supporting local livelihoods; protecting watersheds from erosion; harbouring an untold wealth of genetic resources; supporting thriving recreation and tourism industries; providing for science, research and education; and forming a basis for cultural and other non-material values.
This indicator adds meaningful information to, complements and builds from traditionally reported simple statistics of terrestrial and freshwater area covered by protected areas, computed by dividing the total protected area within a country by the total territorial area of the country and multiplying by 100 (e.g., Chape et al. 2005). Such percentage area coverage statistics do not recognise the extreme variation of biodiversity importance over space (Rodrigues et al. 2004), and so risk generating perverse outcomes through the protection of areas which are large at the expense of those which require protection.
The indicator is used to track progress towards the 2011–2020 Strategic Plan for Biodiversity (CBD 2014, Tittensor et al. 2014), and was used as an indicator towards the Convention on Biological Diversity’s 2010 Target (Butchart et al. 2010).
Limitations: Quality control criteria are applied to ensure consistency and comparability of the data in the World Database on Protected Areas. New data are validated at UNEP-WCMC through a number of tools and translated into the standard data structure of the World Database on Protected Areas. Discrepancies between the data in the World Database on Protected Areas and new data are minimised by provision of a manual (UNEP-WCMC 2016) and resolved in communication with data providers. Similar processes apply for the incorporation of data into the World Database of Key Biodiversity Areas.
The indicator does not measure the effectiveness of protected areas in reducing biodiversity loss, which ultimately depends on a range of management and enforcement factors not covered by the indicator. A number of initiatives are underway to address this limitation. Most notably, numerous mechanisms have been developed for assessment of protected area management, which can be synthesised into an indicator (Leverington et al. 2010). This is used by the Biodiversity Indicators Partnership as a complementary indicator of progress towards Aichi Biodiversity Target 11. However, there may be little relationship between these measures and protected area outcomes (Nolte & Agrawal 2013). More recently, approaches to “green listing” have started to be developed, to incorporate both management effectiveness and the outcomes of protected areas, and these are likely to become progressively important as they are tested and applied more broadly.
Data and knowledge gaps can arise due to difficulties in determining whether a site conforms to the IUCN definition of a protected area, and some protected areas are not assigned management categories. Moreover, “other effective area-based conservation measures”, as specified by Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011–2020, recognise that some sites beyond the formal protected area network, while not managed primarily for nature conservation, may nevertheless be managed in ways which are consistent with the persistence of the biodiversity for which they are important (Jonas et al. 2014). However, standard approaches to documentation of “other effective areabased conservation measures” are still under debate through the IUCN Task Force on Other Effective Areas Based Conservation Measures which will conclude with recommendations for a definition on OECMs. Once defined it is likely OEMCs will be documented in the World Database on Protected Areas.
Regarding important sites, the biggest limitation is that site identification to date has focused on specific subsets of biodiversity, for example birds (for Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas) and highly threatened species (for Alliance for Zero Extinction sites). While Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas have been documented to be good surrogates for biodiversity more generally (Brooks et al. 2001, Pain et al. 2005), the application of the unified standard for identification of Key Biodiversity Areas (IUCN 2016) sites across different levels of biodiversity (genes, species, ecosystems) and different taxonomic groups remains a high priority, building from efforts to date (Eken et al. 2004, Knight et al. 2007, Langhammer et al. 2007, Foster et al. 2012).
Key Biodiversity Area identification has been validated for a number of countries and regions where comprehensive biodiversity data allow formal calculation of the site importance (or “irreplaceability”) using systematic conservation planning techniques (Di Marco et al. 2016, Montesino Pouzols et al. 2014).
Future developments of the indicator will include: a) expansion of the taxonomic coverage of terrestrial and freshwater Key Biodiversity Areas through application of the Key Biodiversity Areas standard (IUCN 2016) to a wide variety of terrestrial and freshwater vertebrates, invertebrates, plants and ecosystem type; b) improvements in the data on protected areas by continuing to increase the proportion of sites with documented dates of designation and with digitised boundary polygons (rather than coordinates); and c) exploring other methods for assessing and presenting temporal trends in protected area coverage.
Data Source: Data for this indicator was primarily collected from the United Nations Statistics Division’s Open SDG Data Hub. National level data is provided to the United Nations Statistics Division by the respective nation, unless otherwise noted. To learn more about the data used in this portal, visit the about page.
Data is accurate as of October 31, 2018.
15.1.2 Important Sites for Freshwater Biodiversity Covered by Protected Areas in the Sustainable Development Goals
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15. Sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, halt and reverse land degradation, halt biodiversity loss
Forests cover 30 per cent of the Earth’s surface and in addition to providing food security and shelter, forests are key to combating climate change, protecting biodiversity and the homes of the indigenous population. Thirteen million hectares of forests are being lost every year while the persistent degradation of drylands has led to the desertification of 3.6 billion hectares.
Deforestation and desertification – caused by human activities and climate change – pose major challenges to sustainable development and have affected the lives and livelihoods of millions of people in the fight against poverty. Efforts are being made to manage forests and combat desertification.
Related 15.1.2 Important Sites for Freshwater Biodiversity Covered by Protected Areas Targets
By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands, in line with obligations under international agreements