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Chapter 3

Areas of Importance for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services

In 2018, 21% 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: July 2018

Next update: March 2020

In January 2018, 21% of Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) were estimated to be completely covered by protected areas, while 35% had no protection through systems of protected areas. On average, 47% of each terrestrial, 44% of each freshwater, and 15.9% 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.

While protected area coverage of KBAs in marine areas had tripled between 2010 and 2018 (5% to 15.9%), there was slower progress in the inclusion of terrestrial and freshwater KBAs into the global protected area network since 2000 (Terrestrial: 43.3 % to 46.6%; Freshwater: 41.1 % to 43.5%).

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 (2018), 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 (January 2018).

To assess how many threatened and rare species found within KBAs are within protected areas, we looked at important species found in 5,011 KBAs in 29 Biodiversity Hotspots identified by the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF):

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.