As the pace of biodiversity loss continues largely unabated (IPBES, 2019; CBD, 2020; WWF, 2020), the links between this loss and other global challenges are becoming better understood. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic forced the problems of unsustainable exploitation of nature into the public consciousness (Gibb et al., 2020; UNEP, 2020), awareness was increasing of the connections between biodiversity loss and the climate crisis (WWF, 2020; De Lamo et al., 2020).
As we enter the new decade, it is clear that biodiversity loss needs to be addressed not only for the sake of species and ecosystems, but also to ensure the survival of human societies.
Protected and conserved areas (see Box 1: a note on terminology) have long been considered the cornerstones of biodiversity conservation (IPBES, 2019), and have an important role to play in achieving many of the Aichi global biodiversity targets and the Sustainable Development Goals (CBD, 2020). Although data on effectiveness remain incomplete (Chapter 6), protected areas can prevent species extinctions (IPBES, 2019) and experience lower levels of human pressure than external areas (Geldmann et al., 2019).
In 2010, the governments of the world reiterated their commitment to expanding protected and conserved areas by agreeing to conserve 17% of the world’s land and inland water ecosystems, and 10% of its coastal waters and oceans, by 2020. The Protected Planet Report 2020 brings together the available data at the end of 2020 to provide an authoritative assessment of progress towards this target, known as Aichi Biodiversity Target 11. Furthermore, it provides a baseline for tracking the new set of goals and targets being developed as part of the post-2020 global biodiversity framework.
This Protected Planet Report is the first in the series to include data on other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs) in addition to protected areas (Box 2). Although Aichi Target 11 refers to ‘systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures’, OECMs were not formally defined until 2018 (CBD, 2018). While protected areas must have conservation as a primary objective, there is no restriction on the management objectives of OECMs, provided those objectives result in effective long-term conservation outcomes for biodiversity (IUCN-WCPA, 2019). Both protected areas and OECMs can exist under the governance of governments, indigenous peoples, local communities, private actors or any combination of these. In 2019, the World Database on Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (WD-OECM) was established by UNEP-WCMC to compile and report data on OECMs.
The WD-OECM is recently established and currently contains data from only five countries and territories. However, based on the substantial change in coverage seen in countries that have already reported on OECMs – Canada, Algeria and the Philippines have all achieved either 10% marine coverage or 17% terrestrial coverage thanks to OECMs – it is apparent that they will have an extensive influence on future conservation statistics. Their identification and reporting to the WD-OECM at scale is therefore a high priority for understanding both baselines and progress towards future targets relating to protected and conserved areas.
The Protected Planet Report 2020 begins by discussing whether Aichi Target 11’s percentage coverage targets have been met. Beyond the quantitative element of coverage, Aichi Target 11 has six quality elements, requiring the world’s protected and conserved area network to:
Cover areas of importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services;
Cover a representative sample of species and ecosystems;
Be effectively managed;
Be equitably managed;
Be well-connected; and
Be integrated into the wider landscape and seascape.
Each of these quality elements is essential to a successful network of protected and conserved areas, and each has its own section in this report.