Chapter 3


Since 2010, over 21 million km2 has been placed within protected and conserved areas, meaning that 42% of the area now within protected and conserved areas has been added in the last decade. As a result, the May 2021 WDPA and WD-OECM show that at least 22.5 million km2 (16.64%) of land and inland water ecosystems, and 28.1 million km2 (7.74%) of coastal waters and the ocean, are within protected areas and OECMs. It is expected that the percentage targets would be met or exceeded, at least on land, if OECMs and non-state protected areas were comprehensively mapped.

Did we reach the target?

By 2020, at least 17 percent of terrestrial and inland water and 10 percent of coastal and marine areas... are conserved through... protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures.

The World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) has been the key tool for assessing the area covered by protected areas, and progress towards achieving Aichi Target 11, over the last decade (IPBES, 2019; UNEP, 2019; CBD, 2020). In the first Protected Planet Report in 2012, and in every report since, the narrative has been one of growth (Bertzky et al., 2012; Juffe-Bignoli et al., 2014; UNEP-WCMC and IUCN, 2016; UNEP-WCMC et al., 2018). Since 2010, an additional 2.1 million km2 of land and inland water ecosystems, and 18.8 million km2 of coastal waters and the ocean, has been placed within protected areas (however, as discussed in Box 3, these figures do not tell the entire story). Although few countries have reported on OECMs at the time of publication, those that have been reported already add 1.3 million km2 on land and over 300,000 km2 in the ocean. At the national level, 82% of countries and territories have succeeded in increasing their protected area and OECM coverage.

Based on the available data in the WDPA and WD-OECM, and considering the known limitations of the databases, it is likely that the 17% coverage target for land and inland waters has been significantly exceeded in reality.

While the coverage figure derived from the data currently stands at 16.64%, a delay in reporting means that some protected areas designated in 2020 will not be reflected in the WDPA when this report is published. Many of these sites are likely to be added to the WDPA during 2021, and readers should therefore consult for the most up to date coverage statistics. Perhaps more importantly, it is likely that the appropriate recognition and reporting of existing non-state protected areas (Box 4) and OECMs would significantly increase coverage.

There has also been a significant increase in the extent of marine protected areas over the last 10 years. However, the data do not yet show that Aichi Target 11’s 10% coverage target has been met, and the same is true of Sustainable Development Goal 14.5, which also concluded in 2020 and shares the 10% target. Coverage based on the WDPA and WD-OECM stands at 7.74%. However, several large sites are known to be in the pipeline, including some that might have been designated in 2020 had COVID-19 not delayed key meetings (e.g. OSPAR Commission, 2020). As with the terrestrial realm, non-state protected areas and OECMs in coastal and marine areas would undoubtedly increase coverage if they were mapped and appropriately recognised.

Marine coverage can be further broken down into national waters and areas beyond national jurisdiction (ABNJ), painting a more complex picture. While significant expansions in coverage have been observed within national jurisdiction, where protected areas and OECMs now cover 18.01%, ABNJ lags behind at 1.18%.

Change in protected area and OECM coverage since 1990

UNEP-WCMC and IUCN (2021) Protected Planet: The World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) and World Database on Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (WD-OECM) [On-line], May 2021, Cambridge, UK: UNEP-WCMC and IUCN. Available at:

Although new data on OECMs have significantly increased terrestrial coverage since 2019, growth in terrestrial protected areas has been outpaced in recent years by growth in protection of coastal waters and the oceans. This is thanks in large part to the designation of growing numbers of very large marine protected areas. This trend appears likely to continue into the next decade, with a further 8.8 million km2 committed or otherwise planned for protection at the start of 2021, from just five proposed marine protected areas.

The post-2020 global biodiversity framework is anticipated to incorporate a more ambitious coverage target on protected and conserved areas than Aichi Target 11, alongside quality elements. A focus on such elements will be essential to ensuring that systems of protected and conserved areas achieve real conservation outcomes. These elements are discussed in the following sections.