Home About Indicator Development Partners Resources Dashboard
Indicator name 

Protected Area Coverage of Key Biodiversity Areas

What does this data layer represent? 

This indicator Protected Area Coverage of Key Biodiversity 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.

What does a trend in this indicator tell us? 

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.

How was the indicator developed? 

This indicator is calculated from data derived from a spatial overlap between digital polygons for protected areas from the World Database on Protected Areas (UNEP-WCMC & IUCN 2017) and digital polygons for terrestrial and freshwater Key Biodiversity Areas (from the World Database of Key Biodiversity Areas, including Important Bird and Biodiversity Areas, Alliance for Zero Extinction sites, and other Key Biodiversity Areas; available through the Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool). The value of the indicator at a given point in time, based on data on the year of protected area establishment recorded in the World Database on Protected Areas, is computed as the mean percentage of each Key Biodiversity Area currently recognised that it covered by protected areas.

Limitations and caveats 

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.

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.

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).

Where can I get more information about this indicator? 

More information and further resources are available in the indicator factsheet here.
SDG indicator metadata here.  

Data sources 

BirdLife International
International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC)


Chape, S. et al. (2005). Measuring the extent and effectiveness of protected areas as an indicator for meeting global biodiversity targets. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B 360: 443-445. 

Rodrigues , A. S. L. et al. (2004). Effectiveness of the global protected area network in representing species diversity. Nature 428: 640-643. 

UNEP-WCMC & IUCN (2017). Protected Planet: The World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA). UNEP-WCMC, Cambridge, UK. Available from http://www.protectedplanet.net