Analysis of Protected Area Irreplaceability

Informing management priorities within individual protected areas

About this analysis

The information provided in these pages is a contribution to informing management priorities within individual protected areas, in order to improve their individual and collective effectiveness for conserving global biodiversity.

It was obtained by combining spatial data for 173,461 terrestrial protected areas from the World Database on Protected Areas and for 21,419 vertebrates species from the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, encompassing all amphibians, mammals and birds, of which 4,329 are globally threatened species. This analysis is detailed in the publication listed below.

Information is provided here for selected protected areas – those overlapping more than 5% of the range of any species - including 2,178 protected areas and 192 proposed sites, covering a total of 6,117 species, for a maximum of 146 species per site. For each of these protected areas, we provide information on their irreplaceability scores and ranks, as well as information on the degree to which specific species rely on the protected area (see below for definitions). Species with a high degree of dependence on a protected area (high degree of overlap, and/or high ratio rank/number) are recommended as potential priorities for management in the protected area. Potentially useful information on each species (conservation status, geographic range, population, habitat and ecology, ongoing threats and conservation actions) can be obtained from their corresponding page on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species by following the hyperlink associated with the species’ scientific name.

The irreplaceability results presented here were derived from the October 2012 version of the World Database on Protected Areas and on the 2012.2 version of the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. The external links to protected areas in and to species in the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species may connect to updated versions of these data.

These data are intended to be informative, rather than prescriptive. Whenever possible, they should be complemented by more detailed information on the degree to which species depend on each protected area (e.g. information on habitat suitability, relative abundance, or population dynamics) and on the costs and opportunities of management. These data are subject to change as better information becomes available on species and on protected areas. For more information on the sources of data used and on their caveats, see the Supplemental Materials of the publication below.

Citation: Any uses of these data should make reference to this publication:
Le Saout, S., Hoffmann, M., Shi, Y., Hughes, A., Bernard, C., Brooks, T.M., Bertzky, B., Butchart, S.H.M., Stuart, S.N., Badman, T., Rodrigues A.S.L. (2013) Protected areas and effective biodiversity conservation. Science 342: 803-805.

For obtaining a copy of this publication, or for more information, please contact the corresponding author.

Definition of terms used

WDPA Record table: The fields in this table are extracted from the World Database on Protected Areas. For more information, see Protected Planet's help page.

Global irreplaceability: aggregated measure of the degree of global dependence of species on the protected area, calculated from the percentage of each species’ global distribution overlapping the boundaries of each protected area.

Irreplaceability scores: obtained for each protected area either when considering all species whose distributions overlaps the site, or the subset of threatened species in the site. Also obtained separately for each of the taxonomic groups analyzed (birds, mammals and amphibians). See publication above for details on how this was calculated.

Irreplaceability ranks: protected area rank in decreasing order of irreplaceability scores, across all 173,461 currently designated protected areas. In the case of ties (protected areas with the same irreplaceability score), the average rank was obtained. For proposed protected areas, the irreplaceability ranks are those that the site would have if it was already designated.

Species for which the protected area is of global importance: those species whose distribution overlaps the protected area by ≥ 5%.

IUCN Red List: categories of conservation status according to the 2012 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species. Key to categories:

Critically Endangered
Near Threatened
Least Concerned
Data Deficient

Direction of population trend: current population trend, from the 2012 IUCN Red List.

Distribution size (km²): extent of the polygon representing the species’ current distribution, according to the 2012 IUCN Red List. The polygons may include relatively extensive areas from which the species is absent and are therefore likely to overestimate the species’ true area of occupancy.

Percentage overlap: the percentage of each species’ distribution that falls within the protected area boundaries. Given the coarse nature of the species distribution data and possible inaccuracies in the protected area data, these values are merely indicative.

Rank/Number: global rank of the protected area (or proposed site) for the species, in decreasing order of percentage overlap/total number of protected areas where the species occurs at ≥ 1% overlap. For example, a rank of 3/10 means that the protected area is the third (across 173,461 protected areas) that most overlaps the species distribution, and that there are 10 protected areas globally that overlap the species’ range by ≥ 1%. Note that there may be protected areas of different designations overlapping the same space (e.g. as a National Park and as World Heritage Site) such that, for example, a species may be seen to have 100% percentage overlap with a protected area and a ranking of 1/2 (e.g., if it has a 100% overlap with a National Park but it also overlaps a World Heritage Site which occupies the same space).

Participating institutions

The Center for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology (CEFE, Centre d’Ecologie Fonctionnelle et Evolutive), is the largest French research center in Ecology, dedicated to independent, fundamental scientific research on the dynamics of biodiversity, planetary environmental change, and sustainable development. It operates as a mixed research unit (UMR5175) composed of staff from the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS), the universities Montpellier I, Montpellier II, Montpellier III and Nîmes, Montpellier SupAgro International Center for Higher Education in Agricultural Sciences, CIRAD, Ecole Pratiques des Hautes Etudes (EPHE), Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD), and the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA).
The United Nations Environmental Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), is the specialist biodiversity assessment centre of the United Nations Environment Programme, the world’s foremost intergovernmental environmental organisation. The Centre has been in operation for over 30 years, combining scientific research with policy advice and the development of decision-support tools.
The International Union for Nature Conservation (IUCN) helps the world find pragmatic solutions to our most pressing environment and development challenges. IUCN works on biodiversity, climate change, energy, human livelihoods and greening the world economy by supporting scientific research, managing field projects all over the world, and bringing governments, NGOs, the UN and companies together to develop policy, laws and best practice. IUCN is the world’s oldest and largest global environmental organization, with more than 1,200 government and NGO members and almost 12,000 volunteer experts in some 160 countries. IUCN’s work is supported by over 1,000 staff in 45 offices and hundreds of partners in public, NGO and private sectors around the world.
The Species Survival Commission (SSC) is the largest of IUCN’s six volunteer commissions with a global membership of around 8,000 experts. SSC advises IUCN and its members on the wide range of technical and scientific aspects of species conservation, and is dedicated to securing a future for biodiversity. SSC has significant input into the international agreements dealing with biodiversity conservation.
The World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) is the world's premier network of protected area expertise. It is administered by IUCN's Global Programme on Protected Areas and has over 1,700 members, spanning 140 countries. WCPA works by helping governments and others plan protected areas and integrate them into all sectors; by providing strategic advice to policy makers; by strengthening capacity and investment in protected areas; and by convening the diverse constituency of protected area stakeholders to address challenging issues. For more than 50 years, IUCN and WCPA have been at the forefront of global action on protected areas.
BirdLife International is the world’s largest nature conservation Partnership. BirdLife is the world leader in bird conservation. Rigorous science informed by practical feedback from projects on the ground in important sites and habitats enables us to implement successful conservation programmes for birds and all nature.