World Commission on Protected Areas

Biodiversity and protected areas

The IUCN WCPA/SSC Joint Task Force on biodiversity and protected areas aims to determine the best predictors of success for protected areas in conserving biodiversity and to consolidate a standard for the identification of sites contributing significantly to the global persistence of biodiversity.
Giant hogweed (Heracleum mantegazzianum)

Task Force Leaders

Stephen Woodley

Penny Langhammer

Why do we need biodiversity and protected areas?

Biodiversity - or biological diversity - is a term used to describe the variety of life on Earth. It refers to the number, variety and variability of living organisms (animals, plants, fungi, microbes, etc.), the genetic differences among them, and the ecosystems in which they occur.

Biodiversity provides us with many goods and services, such as food, fuel, medication, materials and clean water. It supports both our economy and our lifestyles. Its beauty inspires and enriches our lives, and we have a moral duty to protect it and ensure its survival (and in the long-term our own survival) for future generations. 

Biodiversity is being lost throughout the world and this has negative consequences for the delivery of ecosystem services and human wellbeing. The primary threat to most biodiversity is habitat loss, thus the primary response should be to safeguard these habitats. 

The creation of protected area networks helps to reduce biodiversity loss and provides significant contributions to global conservation efforts. However, despite the fact that the surface area of designated protected areas has steadily increased since 1970, the rate of biodiversity loss continues to increase. The discrepancy between the trends in increasing protected area coverage but declining biodiversity over the last four decades may relate to two key factors: (1) the degree to which protected areas deliver biodiversity outcomes; and (2) the degree to which significant biodiversity is represented within protected areas.

The Joint Task Force

The World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) and the Species Survival Commission (SSC) are the two largest of six IUCN Commissions. The purpose of the Commissions is to provide state of the art knowledge and expertise drawn from a wide range of volunteer experts as a contribution to fulfilling the IUCN Mission and Programme. 

Given that the objective of safeguarding areas is the conservation of biological diversity, the members of both commissions have recognised that they are working towards shared goals.     

Recognising this overarching common ground, the elected chairs of the IUCN Species Survival Commission and World Commission on Protected Areas convened a new Joint Task Force on Biodiversity and Protected Areas, in 2009. The mandate of this Joint Task Force was renewed in 2012, at the World Conservation Congress, in Jeju, Republic of Korea. The Joint Task Force builds on previous and current efforts for the Commissions to work together and aims to provide scientific stakeholder consensus in tackling the challenges that face global biodiversity.

The Joint Task Force has two main objectives:

Objective 1: Biodiversity Outcomes

To determine the best predictors of success for protected areas in conserving biodiversity ("biodiversity outcomes", such as population increase, or decreased rate of decline), and to establish mechanisms to maintain such analysis into the future. Click here for further information about Objective 1.

Objective 2: Key Biodiversity Areas

To consolidate a standard for the identification of sites contributing significantly to the global persistence of biodiversity (“key biodiversity areas”). Click here for further information about Objective 2.

Co-chairs and Steering Committee

In 2012, the WCPA and SSC chairs (Dr. Ernesto Enkerlin Hoeflich and Dr. Simon Stuart) reappointed two co-chairs plus 16 additional members to serve as the Joint Theme steering committee:

  • Stephen Woodley (Parks Canada) – co-chair
  • Penny Langhammer (Arizona State University) – co-chair
  • Leon Bennun (The Biodiversity Consultancy)
  • Thomas Brooks (IUCN)
  • Topiltzin Contreras Macbeath (Universidad Autónoma del Estado de Morelos)
  • Luigi Boitani (University of Rome)
  • Nigel Dudley (Equilibrium)
  • Lincoln Fishpool (BirdLife International)
  • Gustavo Fonseca (Global Environment Facility)
  • Jaime Garcia-Moreno (Vogelbescherming)
  • Marc Hockings (University of Queensland)
  • Jon Hutton (WWF-Luc Hoffmann Institute)
  • Kathy MacKinnon (WCPA)
  • Vinod Mathur (Wildlife Institute of India)
  • Paul Matiku (NatureKenya)
  • Kent Redford (Archipelago Consulting)
  • Justina Ray (Wildlife Conservation Society)
  • Jane Smart (IUCN)
  • Phil Weaver (Global Ocean Biodiversity Initiative, GOBI)

How to become a member

Membership of the Joint Task Force is open to interested parties. The JointTheme is managed through a Google Group Website. Interested parties can contact the group ( to express interest in participating.


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