WCPA Biomes


Protected Areas more effectively contribute to the conservation of biodiversity, with particular focus on under-represented biomes, especially marine, and on strengthening linkages between protected areas in the landscape/seascape


Laus lake in Disentis/Muster region, Grisons, Switzerland

Mountain PAs and Connectivity as a priority:

Over the past decades, the recognized importance of protecting Mountain ecosystems resulted in numerous protected areas in the Mountain Biomes around the world. This success has created an opportunity. The world’s relatively well-developed systems of Mountain Protected Areas can serve as examples of how to address connectivity issues, building ecological networks and applying the ecosystem approach. Mountain protected areas can demonstrate conservation strategies through ecosystem corridors to maintain biodiversity pattern and process in the landscape. Further, as mountain ecosystems are vulnerable to global changes, including the effects of climate change, they can also serve explore adaptation options while generally raising the profile of the issues. As well, there is a need for a clearer understanding of how cultural and spiritual values can be fully recognized and appropriately protected alongside natural ones. There is also a need to recognize and promote the involvement of a diverse range of communities in protected area establishment and management.


Filling protected area gaps as a priority:

Priorities include conservation of biodiversity through completion of systems of protected areas, particularly in the marine biome, as well as promotion of ecological networks and the ecosystem approach to enhance biodiversity conservation.

Protected areas inadequately represent many species and do not cover key ecosystems besides the above noted shortfall in the marine biome All of this places at risk the 2010 target of significantly reducing biodiversity loss through the protection afforded by protected areas.

There has been a dramatic growth in the number and area of protected areas. The 2003 UN List of Protected Areas noted there are 102,102 protected areas covering 18.8 million km² in all, and 11.5% of the global land surface – this represents a dramatic growth since 1962 when there were only 1,000 protected areas covering 3% of the Earth’s land surface.

This is a significant achievement by governments and others throughout the world. Global treaties and agreements (notably the CBD, the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, the Convention on Migratory Species, the World Heritage Convention and UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme), and regional agreements and programmes have stimulated the growth of protected area numbers.

Nevertheless, there are many gaps in the network and the effectiveness of conserving biodiversity by systems of PAs must be enhanced

Pillar coral in Marine Protected Area, Bahamas

Marine PAs as a priority:

A particular concern arises over the lack of protection for marine systems, in both sovereign (or national) and international waters. Less than 1% of the ocean is protected. There has been a worldwide collapse in fisheries and attendant environmental damage and disruption to ecosystem structure and function. There have been many global calls to create many more marine protected areas. The World Summit on Sustainable Development, the World Parks Congress, and the Convention on Biological Diversity have all committed to a goal of establishing a global network of marine protected areas by 2012, including on the high seas.

Marine and coastal biodiversity is under increasing stress from intense human pressures, including rapid coastal population growth and development, over-exploitation of commercial and recreational resources, loss of habitat, and land-based sources of pollution. Almost half of the world’s fisheries are fully exploited, while about a fifth are over-fished. About 90% of large predatory fish biomass has been lost since pre-industrial times. Approximately 35% of mangrove forests have been lost over the past two decades. At the same time, people around the world are increasingly dependent on these threatened resources for food, tourism, shoreline protection, and numerous other ecological services. As these pressures intensify, marine protected areas are increasingly recognized as a critical management tool to protect, maintain, and restore natural and cultural resources in coastal and marine waters. A network of marine protected areas, elimination of destructive fishing practices, and the implementation of ecosystem-based management could help meet the global goal of maintaining or restoring fisheries stocks to levels that can produce the maximum sustainable yield no later than 2015.

  • World Commission on Protected Areas Logo
  • Dr Graeme Worboys, mountains expert of IUCN's World Commission on Protected Areas

Protected Area Management Specialist


Email: g.worboys@bigpond.com