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Chapter 4

Ecologically Representative

Protected area coverage of terrestrial ecoregions continues to increase globally. There are now 362 terrestrial ecoregions (44.0%) that meet the 17% protection target on land (compared to 42.6 % in 2016). Similarly, significant progress has been made in the world’s oceans, with 117 marine ecoregions (50.4%) meeting the 10% protection target in the ocean (compared to 36.2% in 2016). Protection of pelagic provinces and freshwater ecoregions remains poor, or insufficiently documented.

Updated: September 2020

Next update: May 2021

44.0% of the 821 terrestrial ecoregions (excluding Antarctica, rock and ice) meet the target of at least 17% of their area included within protected areas, but 5.6% of ecoregions still have less than 1% protected area coverage, or no protection at all. As of 2019, over half (50.4%) of the world’s 232 nearshore marine ecoregions have at least 10% of their area protected. This is also true of marine realms (75%) and marine provinces (61.3%). Unfortunately, only 13.5% of pelagic provinces are meeting the 10% coverage target, as these areas are primarily in areas beyond national jurisdiction.

Between 2016 and 2018, 382 terrestrial ecoregions saw their coverage increase and 148 terrestrial ecoregions saw their coverage decrease. Significant positive changes have taken place in the protection of marine ecoregions over the period 2016-2018, including in the high seas. There has also been a notable decrease in the number of marine ecoregions that have less than 1% protected area coverage. Yet, in 2018 24.3% of provinces still had less than 1% of their total area protected.

Coverage of different biogeographical units

Percentages of terrestrial and marine biogeographical units meeting the coverage element of Aichi Target 11 in 2016, 2018 and 2019.





Sources: Terrestrial ecoregions, realms and biomes from Olson et al. (2001). Marine ecoregions, realms and provinces from Spalding et al. (2007); pelagic provinces from Spalding et al. (2012).

Protected area coverage of freshwater ecosystems

The level of protection to freshwater ecosystems at the global level remains low, with various estimates having been made using different methodologies.