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Chapter 3

Areas of Importance for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

In 2020, 19% of Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) were fully covered by protected areas. Significant progress has been made in the protection of KBAs in the marine realm (EEZ), but little improvement in the coverage of terrestrial and freshwater KBAs. There is currently no equivalent dataset to assess the levels of protection of ‘areas of importance for ecosystem services’ and this remains a gap in measuring progress towards this element of Target 11.

Updated: September 2020

Next update: May 2021

In 2020, 19% of Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) were estimated to be completely covered by protected areas, while 39% had no protection through systems of protected areas. On average, 44% of each terrestrial, 41% of each freshwater, and 46% of each marine Key Biodiversity Area (within EEZ) are within protected areas. There is therefore an important need to ensure that KBAs achieve better protection by protected areas, or other effective area-based conservation measures.

Between 2010 and 2020 average protected area coverage of KBAs has increased in marine, terrestrial and freshwater KBAs at more or less the same pace. The highest growth has been in marine KBAs (41% - 46%) followed by freshwater KBAs (38% - 41%) and terrestrial KBAs (41% - 44%).

Assessing the contribution of protected areas to ecosystem services

This article explores the extent to which particular ecosystem services are provided by protected areas.


Mean percentage coverage of each KBA by protected area since 2000

Source: BirdLife International, IUCN and UNEP-WCMC (2020), based on spatial overlap between polygons for Key Biodiversity Areas from the World Database of KBAs, compiled by BirdLife International and IUCN, and polygons for protected areas from the WDPA (March 2020).

As of 2018, 21% (5,510) of globally threatened species on The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species™ are found within KBAs in Biodiversity Hotspots. Of these sites, 13% are currently fully within protected areas, while another 31% are covered only in part by protected areas.

Another approach is based on the ‘Evolutionary Distinctiveness’ (the unique contribution of a species to total evolutionary history) and ‘Global Endangerment’ (extinction risk derived from the IUCN Red List) of species. A total of 1,261 or 43% of all EDGE species are found in 2,803 KBAs in 21 Biodiversity Hotspots, with 14% of these sites with EDGE species being fully within protected areas and 35% partially within protected areas.

There is currently no global dataset or analysis that provides a measure of how well protected areas cover ‘areas of particular importance for ecosystem services’, which constitutes a clear gap to be addressed to fully report progress in the achievement of Aichi Target 11.

Protected areas’ contribution to climate change mitigation, with a case study in Paraguay

This case study in Paraguay describes the REDD+ mechanism and provides an example of the contribution of protected areas’ to climate change mitigation.