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Data Sources and Methods for the Global Trends in Protected Areas Indicator


3.1 Data sources

The World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) contains data from governments and non-governmental organizations. Elements of a summary analysis of the WDPA made by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC) in 2013 to assess progress toward Goal 7 (Ensure environmental sustainability) of the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) were used to create the indicator. A portion of this summary analysis is available on the official United Nations site for the MDG Indicators; note that marine data in the online table are for territorial seas only.Footnote [1]

Global marine totals were taken from the WDPA (2013) Official MPA Map, IUCN and UNEP-WCMC.

3.2 Spatial coverage

Coverage is global.

3.3 Temporal coverage

The WDPA is continually being updated and is made available on Protected Planet. Information on individual protected areas includes their date of establishment.

3.4 Data completeness

The WDPA is compiled by UNEP-WCMC from data provided by protected area authorities relevant to the governance type of the protected area. For example, government agencies provide data on federal protected areas, sub-national agencies provide data on sub-national areas, non-governmental organizations may provide data on protected areas they own and manage, communities may provide data on the areas they protect and manage, and so on. The capacity, methods and formats of data management vary within and between data providers; therefore, the WDPA is a mosaic of geographic information system (GIS) data at varying levels of completeness, resolution and quality. Data accepted by the WDPA must meet a minimum standard.

Protected areas with unknown location and/or extent are excluded from the GIS analysis and statistics. Protected areas with unknown year of establishment are included in the GIS analysis and statistics for every year reported from the earliest year to the present.

Analyses of marine protection are conducted for the territorial sea and exclusive economic zoneFootnote [2] (EEZ) of each country, as well as for the global ocean; claimed areas of continental shelf are not considered. Disputed land and sea that are covered by protected areas are included as a group on their own and are included in global totals, but not in national statistics. Similarly, the Great Lakes, Caspian Sea and Aral Sea are excluded from national but not global totals.

Man and the Biosphere (MAB) Reserves were excluded on the advice of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) Man and the Biosphere Program. Only the core zone of MAB Reserves may be considered protected. These zones are not well defined in the WDPA, and the effect of their exclusion is small as they often overlap with other types of protected areas.

3.5 Data timeliness

Statistics were compiled for the Millennium Development Goals Report 2013. The October 2012 version of the WDPA was used for a spatial time series analysis of protected area coverage from 1990 to 2012.


Footnote 1

Territorial sea is defined as the area of the sea from the shoreline out to 12 nautical miles. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (2014) Canada’s Ocean Estate; A Description of Canada’s Maritime Zones. Retrieved on 25 April, 2014.

Return to footnote [1] referrer

Footnote 2

The exclusive economic zone is an area of the sea adjacent to and beyond the territorial sea, extending out to 200 nautical miles from low water lines. Fisheries and Oceans Canada (2014) Canada’s Ocean Estate; A Description of Canada’s Maritime Zones. Retrieved on 19 March, 2014.

Return to footnote [2] referrer