Protected areas
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April 2021

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Data revisions

  • This indicator was published with calculation errors prior to 23rd April 2021. The consequences were usually negligible but for countries with coastlines and either very small land areas or very small EEZ areas they could be significant.

  

Protected areas

This dataset answers the questions: how extensive are protected areas and what management objectives are pursued via protected area designation?

It includes country-level protected area coverage for terrestrial, marine and coastal domains calculated from the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) and provides disaggregations of protected area totals by IUCN management objective.

Data sources

  • Protected areas: UNEP-WCMC World Database on Protected Areas April 2021 release

UNEP-WCMC and IUCN (2021), Protected Planet: The World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) April 2021, Cambridge, UK: UNEP-WCMC and IUCN. Available at: http://www.protectedplanet.net/.

  • Boundaries: A harmonised terrestrial and marine boundary dataset created by JRC's Digital Observatory on Protected Areas (http://dopa.jrc.ec.europa.eu/) is used. This is adapted from FAO GAUL (2015) for terrestrial boundaries and VLIZ Exclusive Economic Zones, v9 (2016) for marine boundaries. Dataset preparation is documented in Bastin et al. (2017). These are further intersected by 1km and 10km coastline buffers to permit the calculation of the coastal indicators provided.

Bastin, L., Mandrici, A., Battistella, L., Dubois, G. (2017). Processing Conservation Indicators with Open Source Tools: Lessons Learned from the Digital Observatory for Protected Areas. In: Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial (FOSS4G) Conference Proceedings: Vol. 17 , Article 14. August 14-19, 2017, Boston, MA, USA. doi.org/10.7275/R5XK8CQS

FAO (2015), The Global Administrative Unit Layers (GAUL) 2014 dataset, implemented by FAO within the CountrySTAT and Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) projects. Available at http://www.fao.org/geonetwork/srv/en/main.home.

Flanders Marine Institute (2016), Maritime Boundaries Geodatabase: Maritime Boundaries and Exclusive Economic Zones (200NM), version 9. Available at doi.org/10.14284/242.

IUCN Management objective disaggregation

The following disaggregation by IUCN management category is provided:

  • Total for category is the total area protected under that IUCN management designation. Note that because overlaps among protected areas are relatively common, the total protected area for a country is typically less than the sum of the disaggregated areas.
  • Erased against precedent categories treats the IUCN categories as a hierarchy and reports the area protected under each designation excluding any area which is already designated at a precedent category in the hierarchy. The order of precedence used is Ia>Ib>II>III>IV>V>VI>No category. The total protected area is equal to the sum of the disaggregated areas.

IUCN management category definitions are detailed at: https://www.iucn.org/theme/protected-areas/about/protected-area-categories

Some countries have some protected areas recorded as points with a reported area. This point data is more uncertain than protected areas reported as polygons because overlaps cannot be identified or resolved. For this reason the total for countries is provided with and without the inclusion of the total reported area of protected areas recorded as points. The reported area of protected areas recorded as points can (individually or cumulatively) exceed the reference area used to calculate these indicators so coverages of greater than 100% can be reported.

Limitations

  • Protected areas are not necessarily sited optimally with respect to biodiversity conservation objectives.
  • The indicator presented here does not provide any indication of whether protected areas are effectively managed or enforced.
  • In practice, some of the No Category and the internationally and regionally designated protected areas meet the definition of a specific IUCN category (e.g. Natura 2000 sites arguably meet the definition of IUCN cat. IV); however, they are not currently recorded as such in the WDPA database and therefore are included under No IUCN category
  • Not all protected areas have a designation date recorded. When there is no designation date the protected area is deemed to have always existed, therefore historical totals maybe be overestimated. Protected areas for a country can be inspected on a site-by-site basis on Protected Planet which can be useful to assess the data completeness for this attribute field and others.
  • Differences between different sources of protected area coverage information arise from several issues including the definitions of terrestrial, coastal, and marine areas; the country baselines used; the definition of a country (e.g. which overseas territories are included); areal calculation technique used; how protected areas recorded as points are treated; time lag between national or regional data and updates to the WDPA; uncertainty about whether a particular type of protected area designation meets the definition of a protected area; and to which of the IUCN categories a protected area belongs. The WDPA also includes data from non-governmental data providers which may not be included in national databases.

  

Other notes

  • The OECD aggregate includes all members as of April 2021 plus Costa Rica which had been invited to join at that time but which was not officially yet a full member.
  • The OECD aggregate includes 'metropolitan' member country areas only, i.e. it does not include overseas territories or affiliates.
  • An equal-weight OECD arithmetic average (code OAVG_A) value is provided for convenience where possible. All other aggregate groups (OECD total, EU27, G20 etc.) are geographically weighted (i.e. calculated from the total territory of the group).
  • No protected area data for Turkey is submitted to the WDPA.
  • Some marine areas are shared between countries in joint regimes or there are unresolved overlapping claims to an area. In these cases, the entire relevant area (and protected areas therein) are attributed to all countries involved. Aggregate results (e.g. OECD total) are calculated such that these areas are only counted once - and therefore may not match the sum of the reported values of their constituent countries.
  • When defining geographical coverage, the rule applied is that if an affiliated country/territory has its own ISO 3166-1 code then it is not included in the 'parent' code. The exception is Clipperton Island (France) which has been given the code CPT even though it does not have an individual official ISO 3166-1 entry. For AUS, DNK, GBR, FRA, NLD, NOR, NZD and USA additional results are provided that include affiliated countries or territories overseas.

  

Further information

A more complete description of the method and motivation for this dataset is available at: doi.org/10.1787/19970900. Note that there have been some changes in subsequent updates:

  • The analysis is performed using a raster representation of protected areas at a 300m resolution. This was necessary to handle increasing data volumes and complexity. Please note that for smaller output areas such as small EEZs or the coastal zones of countries with relatively short coastlines in particular, this processing resolution could cause disparities with estimates produced using other calculation methods.
  • The boundary data used has changed
Protected areasContact person/organisation
env.stat@oecd.org
Date last updated

April 2021

Key statistical concept

Data revisions

  • This indicator was published with calculation errors prior to 23rd April 2021. The consequences were usually negligible but for countries with coastlines and either very small land areas or very small EEZ areas they could be significant.

  

Protected areas

This dataset answers the questions: how extensive are protected areas and what management objectives are pursued via protected area designation?

It includes country-level protected area coverage for terrestrial, marine and coastal domains calculated from the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) and provides disaggregations of protected area totals by IUCN management objective.

Data sources

  • Protected areas: UNEP-WCMC World Database on Protected Areas April 2021 release

UNEP-WCMC and IUCN (2021), Protected Planet: The World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) April 2021, Cambridge, UK: UNEP-WCMC and IUCN. Available at: http://www.protectedplanet.net/.

  • Boundaries: A harmonised terrestrial and marine boundary dataset created by JRC's Digital Observatory on Protected Areas (http://dopa.jrc.ec.europa.eu/) is used. This is adapted from FAO GAUL (2015) for terrestrial boundaries and VLIZ Exclusive Economic Zones, v9 (2016) for marine boundaries. Dataset preparation is documented in Bastin et al. (2017). These are further intersected by 1km and 10km coastline buffers to permit the calculation of the coastal indicators provided.

Bastin, L., Mandrici, A., Battistella, L., Dubois, G. (2017). Processing Conservation Indicators with Open Source Tools: Lessons Learned from the Digital Observatory for Protected Areas. In: Free and Open Source Software for Geospatial (FOSS4G) Conference Proceedings: Vol. 17 , Article 14. August 14-19, 2017, Boston, MA, USA. doi.org/10.7275/R5XK8CQS

FAO (2015), The Global Administrative Unit Layers (GAUL) 2014 dataset, implemented by FAO within the CountrySTAT and Agricultural Market Information System (AMIS) projects. Available at http://www.fao.org/geonetwork/srv/en/main.home.

Flanders Marine Institute (2016), Maritime Boundaries Geodatabase: Maritime Boundaries and Exclusive Economic Zones (200NM), version 9. Available at doi.org/10.14284/242.

IUCN Management objective disaggregation

The following disaggregation by IUCN management category is provided:

  • Total for category is the total area protected under that IUCN management designation. Note that because overlaps among protected areas are relatively common, the total protected area for a country is typically less than the sum of the disaggregated areas.
  • Erased against precedent categories treats the IUCN categories as a hierarchy and reports the area protected under each designation excluding any area which is already designated at a precedent category in the hierarchy. The order of precedence used is Ia>Ib>II>III>IV>V>VI>No category. The total protected area is equal to the sum of the disaggregated areas.

IUCN management category definitions are detailed at: https://www.iucn.org/theme/protected-areas/about/protected-area-categories

Some countries have some protected areas recorded as points with a reported area. This point data is more uncertain than protected areas reported as polygons because overlaps cannot be identified or resolved. For this reason the total for countries is provided with and without the inclusion of the total reported area of protected areas recorded as points. The reported area of protected areas recorded as points can (individually or cumulatively) exceed the reference area used to calculate these indicators so coverages of greater than 100% can be reported.

Limitations

  • Protected areas are not necessarily sited optimally with respect to biodiversity conservation objectives.
  • The indicator presented here does not provide any indication of whether protected areas are effectively managed or enforced.
  • In practice, some of the No Category and the internationally and regionally designated protected areas meet the definition of a specific IUCN category (e.g. Natura 2000 sites arguably meet the definition of IUCN cat. IV); however, they are not currently recorded as such in the WDPA database and therefore are included under No IUCN category
  • Not all protected areas have a designation date recorded. When there is no designation date the protected area is deemed to have always existed, therefore historical totals maybe be overestimated. Protected areas for a country can be inspected on a site-by-site basis on Protected Planet which can be useful to assess the data completeness for this attribute field and others.
  • Differences between different sources of protected area coverage information arise from several issues including the definitions of terrestrial, coastal, and marine areas; the country baselines used; the definition of a country (e.g. which overseas territories are included); areal calculation technique used; how protected areas recorded as points are treated; time lag between national or regional data and updates to the WDPA; uncertainty about whether a particular type of protected area designation meets the definition of a protected area; and to which of the IUCN categories a protected area belongs. The WDPA also includes data from non-governmental data providers which may not be included in national databases.

  

Other notes

  • The OECD aggregate includes all members as of April 2021 plus Costa Rica which had been invited to join at that time but which was not officially yet a full member.
  • The OECD aggregate includes 'metropolitan' member country areas only, i.e. it does not include overseas territories or affiliates.
  • An equal-weight OECD arithmetic average (code OAVG_A) value is provided for convenience where possible. All other aggregate groups (OECD total, EU27, G20 etc.) are geographically weighted (i.e. calculated from the total territory of the group).
  • No protected area data for Turkey is submitted to the WDPA.
  • Some marine areas are shared between countries in joint regimes or there are unresolved overlapping claims to an area. In these cases, the entire relevant area (and protected areas therein) are attributed to all countries involved. Aggregate results (e.g. OECD total) are calculated such that these areas are only counted once - and therefore may not match the sum of the reported values of their constituent countries.
  • When defining geographical coverage, the rule applied is that if an affiliated country/territory has its own ISO 3166-1 code then it is not included in the 'parent' code. The exception is Clipperton Island (France) which has been given the code CPT even though it does not have an individual official ISO 3166-1 entry. For AUS, DNK, GBR, FRA, NLD, NOR, NZD and USA additional results are provided that include affiliated countries or territories overseas.

  

Further information

A more complete description of the method and motivation for this dataset is available at: doi.org/10.1787/19970900. Note that there have been some changes in subsequent updates:

  • The analysis is performed using a raster representation of protected areas at a 300m resolution. This was necessary to handle increasing data volumes and complexity. Please note that for smaller output areas such as small EEZs or the coastal zones of countries with relatively short coastlines in particular, this processing resolution could cause disparities with estimates produced using other calculation methods.
  • The boundary data used has changed