Protected Area "Gap Analysis" published in Nature

Gland, Switzerland, 8 April 2004 (IUCN) - A paper appearing in the science journal Nature today places one of the major outcomes of the Vth IUCN World Parks Congress into the high profile scientific literature. Effectiveness of the global protected area network in representing species diversity, widely referred to as the "global gap analysis" involved hundreds of IUCN scientists and is the most comprehensive peer-reviewed analysis of its kind.

The World Parks Congress held in South Africa in September 2003 announced that the global network of protected areas now covers 11.5% of the planet's surface. This surpasses the 10% target proposed 10 years earlier at the Caracas Congress. However, the global gap analysis finds that at least 300 Critically Endangered, at least 237 Endangered, and 267 Vulnerable bird, mammal, turtle and amphibian species have no protection in any part of their ranges.

This lack of protection for many of Earth's most threatened species underscores the "gaps" in the protected area system. The authors state that a major shift in conservation planning is required to avoid large-scale species extinctions over the next few decades. Alarmingly, the situation may soon be revealed to be worse as knowledge of the status of other, currently little studied groups of species such as marine and freshwater species increases.

Led by the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science (CABS) at Conservation International, the analysis was produced by 21 co-authors representing 15 organizations. Most are staff or members of IUCN's Species Survival Commission (SSC) and World Commission on Protected Areas.

The analysis builds on the work of thousands of scientists and dozens of institutions. CABS scientists compared a map of over 100,000 protected areas to maps of 11,633 species ranges from four species groups, based on data compiled through the SSC and BirdLife International. They then identified places where species live without any protection, and analyzed where the highest priority gaps in protection existed.

According to the study's findings, it is no longer sufficient to consider the building of protected area systems in terms of the percentage of particular ecosystems that are covered by the system. If protected areas are to be effective in conserving biodiversity, they need to be designed in relation to the distribution patterns of species. Such datasets are now becoming available through the SSC.

The results of the study were released at the World Parks Congress in September last year: See:

The following IUCN experts are available for media interviews:

IUCN Red List Programme Officer, Craig Hilton-Taylor
Tel: 44 1223 277966; Fax +44 1223 277845; Email:

Deputy Coordinator, IUCN Species Programme, Jean-Christophe Vié
Tel: + 41 22 999 0208; Fax: +41 22 999 0015; Email:

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