Protected Areas

Biodiversity outcomes

Task Force Objective 1: To determine the best predictors of success for protected area 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.


A set of global and regional studies, in terrestrial, freshwater and marine environments, aimed at better understanding the effectiveness of different protected areas types in maintaining and promoting biodiversity. These studies draw upon a number of long-term data sets to produce individual, high impact publications and an integrated final product evaluating the biodiversity outcomes delivered by protected areas.

Assessing the effectiveness of marine protected areas

Working in collaboration with an interdisciplinary team of experts convened by SESYNC (the national socio-environmental synthesis center) the Joint Task Force is examining factors affecting the success of marine protected areas (MPAs). The Task Force will contribute data on biological and social outcomes and management effectiveness data from marine protected areas to future analyses, which aim to document and identify the benefits of MPAs at local, regional and national scales to inform marine policy and on the ground management actions. To find out more about this project contact Helen Fox ( [at] or Stephen Woodley (stephen.woodley [at]

Objective 1 Updates

Objective 1: 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.

Drivers of successful biodiversity outcomes in terrestrial protected areas

The Task Force has completed a terrestrial analysis for the globe, for Africa, for Europe, for mammals and for birds. These models use the slope of species population time series as the dependent variable. There are 20 predictor variables representing 6 categories of PA management, ecology and socio-economic context. This study is complete and was submitted to Science for publication.  As often happens with Science, that journal decided not to review the paper.  We are in the process of reformatting for another significant journal.

In addition, we have conducted a global terrestrial study on the standardized Management Effectiveness Tracking Tool (METT), using METT scores as the dependent variable and the same set of predictor variables. This analysis, led by Jonas Geldmann, was just completed and will be submitted for publication very soon.

Ecological outcomes in marine protected areas

The Task Force works with a consortium of partners under the US National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (University of Maryland) to look at ecological outcomes in marine protected areas. We have assembled 5 datasets to look at ecological outcomes inside and outside protected areas (e.g. biomass, species richness, percent cover). They have been standardized into response ratios to allow for analysis. These responses are being modeled against a range of contextual and governance variables. The final modelling workshop for this “Solving the mystery of Marine Protected Area Performance” project will be held in Annapolis, USA on March 23-25. In addition to a global model for marine protected area effectiveness, we will also develop regional models (e.g. Caribbean).  The marine studies are extremely promising because there are far more counterfactual data (inside compared to outside) that on land.

Impact assessment of GEF support to protected areas

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) of the World Bank, working with a set of implementing agencies such as the UNDP, has been the most important funding source to protected areas in developing countries. The Task Force has been assisting the Independent Evaluation Offices of the GEF and the UNDP with an evaluation of the impacts of GEF project support on biodiversity outcomes in protected areas. We carried out a quantitative impact assessment of GEF support to protected areas using three different conservation-relevant measures: management effectiveness scores, rates of forest loss and changes in abundance of wildlife populations. Results of these analyses will be published in the peer reviewed literature after they have gone through the GEF and UNDP evaluation processes.

Part of the process of conducting the analysis for the GEF was to create a database of the available Management Effectiveness Tracking Tools (METTs). Lauren Coad led a team to create this data base with design input from Fiona Leverington (WCPA Task Force on Management Effectiveness) and Jonas Geldmann. It was truly global effort. Date were entered in Cambodia through a firm called Digital Divide. Quality control was done by experts in Columbia.  The resulting database will is now housed at UNEP-WCMC, where it has already been added to. The future hope plan is to integrate this with the the larger Protected Areas Management Effectiveness Data base (PAME) and make connections to the Protected Planet Data base.  This will be an important tool for researchers and park managers.

World Parks Congress

The results of Objective 1 were profiled at the 2014 World Parks Congress in two Stream 1 sessions on Biodiversity Outcomes of Protected Areas. We are working to make the videos and presentations from all Stream 1 sessions available through a dedicated YouTube channel.




Protected Area Literature

Habitat loss and population declines

GELDMANN, J., BARNES, M., COAD, L., CRAIGIE, I. D., HOCKINGS, M. & BURGESS, N. D. 2013. Effectiveness of terrestrial protected areas in reducing habitat loss and population declines. Biological Conservation, 161, 230-238.

Biodiversity and habitat loss

GELDMANN, J., BARNES, M., BURGESS, N., CRAIGIE, I. D., COAD, L., & HOCKINGS, M.  2013. Effectiveness of terrestrial protected areas in reducing biodiversity and habitat loss.Collaboration for Environmental Evidence Review, 10-007.

Large mammals

CRAIGIE, I. D., BAILLIE, J. E., BALMFORD, A., CARBONE, C., COLLEN, B., GREEN, R. E. & HUTTON, J. M. 2010. Large mammal population declines in Africa’s protected areas.Biological Conservation, 143, 2221-2228.

Tropical forests

LAURANCE, W. F., USECHE, D. C., RENDEIRO, J., KALKA, M., BRADSHAW, C. J., SLOAN, S. P., LAURANCE, S. G., CAMPBELL, M., ABERNETHY, K. & ALVAREZ, P. 2012. Averting biodiversity collapse in tropical forest protected areas. Nature, 489, 290-294.

Threatened species recovery

TAYLOR, M. F., SATTLER, P. S., EVANS, M., FULLER, R. A., WATSON, J. E. & POSSINGHAM, H. P. 2011. What works for threatened species recovery? An empirical evaluation for Australia. Biodiversity and Conservation, 20, 767-777.

African great ape

TRANQUILLI, S., ABEDI‐LARTEY, M., AMSINI, F., ARRANZ, L., ASAMOAH, A., BABAFEMI, O., BARAKABUYE, N., CAMPBELL, G., CHANCELLOR, R. & DAVENPORT, T. R. 2012. Lack of conservation effort rapidly increases African great ape extinction risk. Conservation Letters, 5, 48-55.

For further information on Objective 1, contact Stephen Woodley

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