Biodiversity & Habitat


Category Description

Biodiversity underpins all ecosystem services that sustain our environment and power our economies. Natural habitats have witnessed considerable declines in biodiversity in recent decades. Today, many species are, however, at risk of extinction. The Biodiversity & Habitat issue category seeks evaluate a country's performance in habitat conservation and species protection. 

Each nation's Biodiversity & Habitat score reflects a composite of six underlying indicators. Our selected indicators are highlighted in the Convention on Biological Diversity's "Aichi Targets", a set of internationally agreed upon goals for conservation and ecosystem management (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2014). The indicators in Biodiversity & Habitat are: marine protected area, terrestrial biome protection - national weights, terrestrial biome protection - global weights, species protection index, protected area representativeness, and species habitat index.

Indicators Included

  1. Marine protected area: The percentage of marine protected areas (MPAs) within a country's exclusive economic zone.
  2. Terrestrial biome protection - national weights: The percentage of biomes in protected areas, weighted by national composition of biomes.
  3. Terrestrial biome protection - global weights: The percentage of biomes in protected areas, weighted by global composition of biomes.
  4. Species protection index: The average area of species' distributions in a country with protected areas.
  5. Protected area representativeness index: The extent to which terrestrial protected areas are ecologically representative.
  6. Species habitat index: The proportion of habitat within a country remaining, relative to a baseline set in the year 2001. 
Biodiversity and Habitat Indicators
Marine protected area % of EEZ
Terrestrial biome protection - national weights % of biomes (capped)
Terrestrial biome protection - global weights % of biomes (capped)
Species protection index Unitless
Protected area representativeness index Unitless
Species habitat index Unitless

We draw particular attention to the protected area representativeness and species habitat indices, as these indicators represent new metrics within the 2018 EPI. These new indicators reflect international efforts to develop a common and more complete system for monitoring changes in biodiversity.

Category Overview

Biological diversity exists at multiple scales - at the ecosystem, species, and genetic levels. Together, biological diversity forms the foundation of a resilient and sustainable planet. Habitat conservation is important not only for preserving key components of biological diversity, but for maintaining the associated ecosystem services which provide innumerable benefits and protections to humans, such as water provisioning, carbon sequestration, and flood prevention (United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre & International Union for Conservation of Nature, 2016a, p. 13).

Despite its importance, the planet continues to witness sharp declines in biodiversity. The Living Planet Index, which monitors abundance of over 14,000 populations of 3,706 vertebrate species, reveals an average 58% decrease among monitored species between 1970 and 2012 (World Wide Fund for Nature, 2016, p. 18). The World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) finds the world may be entering the sixth mass extinction, noting that extinction rates are up to 100-1,000 extinctions per 10,000 species per 100 years (World Wide Fund for Nature, 2016, p. 46). 

Some ecosystems and species face more extreme extinction pressures than others. Three-quarters of coral reefs are threatened - a grim state of affairs given that reefs play an outsized role for biodiversity, providing critical habitat for a significant proportion of marine life despite covering only a small fraction of the oceans (Burke, 2011, p. 3). Similarly, the average risk of extinction for birds, mammals, and amphibians continues to increase, despite widespread gains in protected areas (PAs) and increasing recognition of the importance of biodiversity around the world (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity & United Nations Environment Programme, 2014, p. 14). The extinction rate for amphibians may be between 25,039 and 45,474 times the background extinction rate (McCallum, 2007). Threatened by habitat degradation, unsustainable resource exploitation, pollution, invasive species, and climate change, the diversity of life on the planet is likely to continue to diminish considerably over the coming years.

Efforts to prevent biodiversity loss may deliver multiple benefits for the planet, people, and the economy.

Environmental: The benefits that stem from high levels of biodiversity are well founded. For terrestrial environments, empirical research suggests a general, positive relationship between biodiversity and ecosystem services (Gamfeldt et al., 2013). Similarly, in marine environments, studies have found positive correlations between species and genetic diversity and ecosystem services, underscoring the ways in which biodiversity loss undermines the stability of ocean ecosystems (Worm et al., 2006, p. 790). Biomass production of reef fish as an ecosystem service itself has been found to be less affected by temperature changes in diverse fish communities than species-poor ones (Duffy, Lefcheck, Stuart-Smith, Navarrete, & Edgar, 2016). 

Diversity of species and habitats emerge as critical factors in enabling resilience and enhanced recovery to environmental disturbance. Ecosystems and habitats serve important roles in mediating the effects of weather events and climate-related stressors and are thus important components of climate mitigation strategy. Uncertainty surrounding climate impacts suggests that ecosystems will benefit greatly from ensuring functional redundancy in order to safeguard key ecological activities when future effects are not fully known (McLeod, Salm, Green, & Almany, 2009, p. 367). Climate change will undoubtedly influence invasive species' distribution, spread, abundance, and impact. It may also worsen problems with invasive species, which, on their own, can have a severe financial and ecological toll (Hellmann, Byers, Bierwagen, & Dukes, 2008, p. 535). While some studies suggest that certain invasive species may be specifically favored under climate change, changing climatic conditions are likely to span a range of different and uncertain effects, including for existing invasive species and for the establishment of new invasive species (Hellmann et al., 2008, p. 536).

Social: The social dimensions of biodiversity and habitat protection range across many issues. Food security, human health, and cultural values are often deeply rooted in the natural environment. In the case of PAs, positive social impacts are often described as co-benefits of conservation strategies. The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) further recognizes that, "…ultimately, the conservation and sustainable use of biological diversity will strengthen friendly relations among States and contribute to peace for humankind" (United Nations, 1992, p. 2). Key among the social benefits of biodiversity conservation is its contribution to meeting food, nutrition, and human health needs (United Nations, 1992, p. 2). As both the foundation of ecosystem services and a source of resources, biodiversity is fundamental to human health across different scales, from the global to the microbial level (World Health Organization, Convention on Biological Diversity, & United Nations Environment Programme, 2015, p. 1). Healthy, diverse ecosystems also maintain critical services such as water and air filtration and pollination (World Health Organization et al., 2015, p. 1), while many medicines on which humans depend are derived from biodiversity. From the perspective of equity, communities that are most dependent on biodiversity and ecosystem services - and thus most affected by their loss - are also be less likely to have the "social protection mechanisms" that help ensure resilience to environmental and anthropogenic disturbances (World Health Organization et al., 2015, p. 2). In this way, a human dimension and equity approach underscores the importance of biodiversity and habitats.

Economic: Careful analysis also suggests that biodiversity will be integral to many economic activities. Ensuring the provisioning of natural resources and they ecosystem services they support can help sustain or bolster economies (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2016, p. 3). Subsistence and small-scale livelihood activities, such as agriculture and fishing, are especially reliant on the natural capital of healthy ecosystems. According to the CBD Secretariat, almost half of the world's population is directly dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods (2016, p. 1). Protection and sustainable management of natural habitats can thus contribute to economic security in many parts of the world.

Ensuring the protection of natural resources requires significant capital investment. Globally, US$150-440 billion per year is needed to halt the loss of biodiversity by mid-century (United Nations, 2015a). However, research from the WWF indicates that the economic benefits of protection may outweigh their costs. A recent report found the benefits that stem from expanding marine protected areas (MPAs) and effective protection of critical marine habitats outweigh the costs at ratios ranging between 3:1 and 20:1 (Reuchlin-Hugenholtz & McKenzie, 2015). Further, the total benefit of achieving the target of protecting 10% of marine areas is estimated at US$622-923 billion over a 35-year period (Reuchlin-Hugenholtz & McKenzie, 2015). If MPAs were to increase to 30% coverage, total economic benefits would range from US$719-1,145 billion (Reuchlin-Hugenholtz & McKenzie, 2015). 

Biodiverse ecosystems may also help reduce the cost of financial damage to human systems from weather events and climate change. Wetland loss and deterioration of the Mississippi Deltaic Plain, for example, exacerbated Hurricane Katrina's impact by allowing more storm surge waters to flood Lake Pontchartrain. As warming of the Earth's oceans intensifies and the likelihood for coastal flooding and severe storms intensifies, habitat protection may offer coastal communities a way to stabilize and protect their shorelines from erosion and storm surge (Gedan, Kirwan, Wolanski, Barbier, & Silliman, 2011). A regional survey of the value of wetlands in Louisiana, which included New Orleans, found a 0.1 increase in wetland continuity per meter reduces property damages between US$ 99-133 and a 0.0001 increase in vegetation roughness decreases damages between US$ 24-43 (Barbier, Georgiou, Enchelmeyer, & Reed, 2013). The reduced damages from each respective improvement are equivalent to saving 3 to 5 and 1 to 2 properties per storm for a segment of the Louisiana coast including New Orleans (Barbier et al., 2013).

Global Impact

In 1992, the international community established the CBD, recognizing the intrinsic, environmental, and economic value of biodiversity (United Nations, 1992). The CBD asserts that biodiversity conservation is a, "common concern of humankind," and therefore one that spans present and future generations (p. 2). The CBD defines biodiversity as, "the variability among living organisms from all sources including, inter alia, terrestrial, marine and other aquatic ecosystems and the ecological complexes of which they are part: this includes diversity within species, between species and of ecosystems," ( p. 3). This widely-accepted definition encompasses not only species and genetic diversity but the diversity of habitats and ecosystems. Through this broad perspective, the issue of biodiversity is linked to nearly every aspect of human and ecological wellbeing.

Globally, biodiversity and habitat protection efforts in this decade have been primarily guided by a set of internationally agreed upon targets known as the Aichi Biodiversity Targets. Adopted in 2010 by the 196 parties to the CBD, these targets are meant to be achieved by 2020. The recently adopted United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) reinforce the targets set under the CBD framework. In 2014, the CBD's Global Biodiversity Outlook 4 (GBO-4) reported the international community was not on track to meet a majority of the Aichi Biodiversity Targets (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity & United Nations Environment Programme, 2014). Other research confirms that, even with the recent escalation in policy responses around biodiversity conservation, these actions are still not enough to counter the threats to biodiversity and critical habitats, and achieve desired progress within a 2020 timeline (Tittensor et al., 2014, p. 241).

Among the SDGs, two goals directly relate to Biodiversity & Habitat: Goal 14 on oceans and Goal 15 on terrestrial habitat (United Nations General Assembly, 2015).

Goal 14: Conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.

Target 14.5: By 2020, conserve at least 10 percent of coastal and marine areas, consistent with national and international law and based on the best available scientific information.

Goal 15: Protect, restore and promote sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems, sustainably manage forests, combat desertification, and halt and reverse land degradation and halt biodiversity loss.

Target 15.1: By 2020, ensure the conservation, restoration and sustainable use of terrestrial and inland freshwater ecosystems and their services, in particular forests, wetlands, mountains and drylands, in line with obligations under international agreements.

Target 15.4: By 2020, ensure the conservation of mountain ecosystems, including their biodiversity, in order to enhance their capacity to provide benefits that are essential for sustainable development.

Target 15.5: Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and, by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species.

Target 15.9: By 2020, integrate ecosystem and biodiversity values into national and local planning, development processes, poverty reduction strategies and accounts.

International Organizations

Several international organizations are charged with orchestrating biodiversity protection at the global level. Key orchestrating bodies include: 

Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Secretariat: The CBD Secretariat global governance serves as the support structure for the Convention on Biological Diversity, a multilateral treaty that aims to protect biological diversity and promote sustainable and equitable use of the resources where biodiversity can be found. The convention was signed at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. 196 nations are parties to the convention (Convention on Biological Diversity, n.d.). 

International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN): The IUCN is a membership union composed of government and civil society groups. Its role is to provide public, private, and non-governmental organizations with the information and tools they need to collectively promote economic development, human progress, and conservation (International Union for the Conservation of Nature, 2014). 

United Nations Division for Ocean Affairs and the Law of the Sea (UN DOALOS): UN DALOS supports the wider acceptance, uniform and consistent application, and effective implementation of United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. Its core functions include: offering advice, studies, assistance, and research on the convention's implementation; maintaining a comprehensive information system; and providing training and technical assistance to States. 

Multilateral Efforts

Multilateral efforts have engendered several relevant conventions and agreements which are used to coördinate action on habitat conservation and species protection. Significant outcomes and their resulting conferences include: 

Convention on Biological Diversity Meetings of the Conference of the Parties: The Conference of Parties is the governing body of the CBD. Its purpose is to advance the implementation of the Convention though decisions made at is periodic meetings. The thirteenth meeting of the Conference of Parties was held in Cancun, Mexico in December 2016. 

Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES): Established in 2012, the IPBS assesses the state of biodiversity and the ecosystem services it provides to society. As an implementing body for global conservation efforts, the IPBES provides policymakers with scientific assessments and knowledge on the state of biodiversity and the tools and methods they need to mitigate risks. IPBES has 126 member states (Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, n.d.). NGOs, civil society groups, and individual also participate as observers. 

Meetings of the Preparatory Committee on General Assembly Resolution 69/292: Resolution 69/292 is an international legally binding instrument under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea that addresses the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction.

2017 Global 'Our Ocean' Conference hosted by the European Union: The fourth 'Our Ocean' conference was held in October 2017 in Malta. The conference produced 437 commitments, US$8.4 billion in financial pledges, and nearly 1 million square miles in MPAs (Our Ocean Conference, 2017). The next three conferences will take place in Bali, Indonesia (2018); Norway (2019); and Palau (2020).   


Biodiversity conservation, as it exists today, largely consists of the management of defined territories, also known as in situ or "on site" conservation. Area-based management gained political traction based, in part, on the belief that it can deliver social, economic, and environmental benefits. The relative simplicity of demarcating land and restricting land use options further contributed to their rise in popularity (Barnes et al., 2016, p. 2). PAs now cover 14.7% of the planet's terrestrial and inland water ecosystems, 4.12% of the global ocean, and 10.2% of coastal and marine areas under national jurisdiction - see Map 8-1 (United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre & International Union for Conservation of Nature, 2016a). Although approaches such as landscape and ex situ ("off site") conservation are important - see Box 8-2 - PAs remain a mainstay of conservation activity. For this reason, and because outcome measures such as species loss are more challenging to monitor or lack sufficient data, the EPI has adopted a series of six indicators to assess a country's performance in biodiversity and habitat conservations for both terrestrial and marine ecosystems.

Map 8-1

Map 8-1. Global terrestrial, marine, and coastal protected areas.
Note: Marine protected areas are in blue and terrestrial protected areas in green.
Source: United Nations Environment Programme World Commission on Protected Areas & International Union for Conservation of Nature.

There are various efforts to encourage consistency and promote a common framework in assessing biodiversity. Examples include the Biodiversity Indicators Partnership (BIP) and the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services' (IPBES) task force on knowledge and data. The SDGs, in combination with the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, include multiple indicators to benchmark progress in terrestrial conservation. Indicators include measuring forest area as a proportion of total land area. Another example is the Mountain Green Cover index, which measures progress toward mountain ecosystem conservation. The SDG Index also includes a spillover variable aimed at reflecting the biodiversity loss attributable to a country's imports of agricultural and other products (Sachs, Schmidt-Traub, Kroll, Durand-Delacre, & Teksoz, 2017, p. 27). Finally, indices like the Living Planet Index and the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species also collect data that monitor species changes. The Red List is also listed as an indicator for SDG Target 15.5: "Take urgent and significant action to reduce the degradation of natural habitats, halt the loss of biodiversity and, by 2020, protect and prevent the extinction of threatened species" (United Nations, 2015b).

Ideally, credible data on governance, management effectiveness, species declines, ecosystem-based adaptation to climate change, and economic impacts of biodiversity loss would assist in the formulation of a comprehensive biodiversity metric. Spatial data on PAs across countries, however, remain the most widely accessible, nationally-specific indicators of progress. To understand both extent of coverage and siting of ecologically important areas, the EPI weights PAs in relation to their size and type of biome. Using EPI's protected area data on the national scale as a foundation for drilling down to area-specific information can help generate a nuanced understanding of biodiversity conservation. 

A country's Biodiversity & Habitat score is comprised of the combination of the weighted scores of six indicators. These indicators reflect the goals included in Aichi Biodiversity Targets 11, 12, and 5. 

  • Marine protected area: The percentage of marine protected areas (MPAs) within a country's exclusive economic zone.
  • Terrestrial biome protection - national weights: The percentage of biomes in protected areas, weighted by national composition of biomes.
  • Terrestrial biome protection - global weights: The percentage of biomes in protected areas, weighted by global composition of biomes.
  • Species protection index: The average area of species' distributions in a country with protected areas.
  • Protected area representativeness index: The extent to which terrestrial protected areas are ecologically representative.
  • Species habitat index: The proportion of habitat within a country remaining, relative to a baseline set in the year 2001. 

Biodiversity & Habitat Indicators

Terrestrial Biome Protection: National and Global Weights

Indicator Background

PAs are an important tool for biodiversity conservation (Rodrigues et al., 2004). Differences in land use in protected terrestrial areas are shown to have a positive impact on biodiversity. Species richness and abundance, for example, are 10.6% and 14.5% higher than non-protected areas, respectively (Gray et al., 2016). The terrestrial biome protection indicators are aligned to Aichi Target 11, which aims to protect at least 17% of terrestrial and inland water areas by 2020 (United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre & International Union for Conservation of Nature, 2016a). 

As of 2016, there are 200,467 terrestrial and inland water protected areas covering 14.7% of the world's ecosystems (United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre & International Union for Conservation of Nature, 2016a). Despite continued growth in PAs, the global community has much work to do if it is to meet Aichi Target 11. The United Nations Environment Programme's World Concervation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) and the IUCN report an additional 3.1 million square kilometers are needed to meet Aichi Target 11 and, as of 2016, less than half of the world's terrestrial ecoregions outside of the Antarctic mainland satisfy the 17% target (United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre & International Union for Conservation of Nature, 2016a, p.).

Data Description

Data on protected areas come from the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA), a joint project between the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the IUCN. The WDPA, managed by UNEP's World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC), is updated monthly and provides the most comprehensive data on protected areas globally. Ecoregion boundaries are provided by the World Resources Institute's "Terrestrial Ecoregions of the World" dataset, based on the work of Olson et al. (2001).

The terrestrial world can be divided into fourteen biomes of ecological significance (Olson et al., 2001, p. 934). Nested within biomes are 867 ecoregions, defined as "relatively large units of land containing a distinct assemblage of natural communities and species, with boundaries that approximate the original extent of natural communities prior to major land-use change" (Olson et al., 2001, p. 933). Using this biogeographic framework can allow for greater recognition of distinctive habitats and globally important areas.

To measure the extent of conservation of terrestrial biomes, the EPI calculates the proportions of important biomes that fall within protected areas. The proportion of a biome type that is protected is then weighted in two ways before being aggregated into a country-level score.

  1. For the terrestrial biome protection - national weights indicator, scores are based on the fraction each biome occupies within a country's total biome area. This indicator attempts to reflect a country's effort to protect rare ecoregions within its own borders.
  2. For the terrestrial biome protection - global weights indicator, scores are weighted by the global extent of biomes, or their prevalence relative to all biomes. This results in an indicator that reflects a country's effort to protect rare biomes worldwide. 

The methodology used to calculate different weights is described in further detail in the Technical Appendix.


The establishment of PAs is a necessary, but not sufficient, condition for biodiversity conservation. While the available evidence suggests that PAs have a positive impact on halting the rate of biodiversity loss, there is limited evidence and a weak understanding of the conditions for effective management (Chape, Harrison, Spalding, & Lysenko, 2005). This dilutes confidence in the ability of PAs to deliver lasting outcomes for habitat and species protection (Geldmann et al., 2013). Understanding and quantifying the factors that contribute to wildlife population change is thus a critical area of future study. Similarly, the need to break down the individual motivations and aims for each PA is also important, as they are often assessed uniformly (Geldmann et al., 2013, p. 230).

New evidence also suggests that protected areas are vulnerable to unsustainable resource use and human disturbance (Schulze et al., n.d.). A January 2018 study of nearly 2,000 terrestrial protected areas identified negative impacts from recreational activities as the most commonly reported threat among site managers (Schulze et al., n.d.). Differences in economic development levels also persist as a challenge in comparing the efficacy of PAs across geographic regions. In countries with low levels of economic development, threats from overexploitation emerged as an additional threat (Schulze et al., n.d.). The threats emphasized in the study are difficult to monitor, even with remote sensing techniques. Thus, the need to develop new monitoring strategies and metrics that account for these challenges will be important to more accurately assess the state of conservation efforts. 

Box 8-1. Building climate resilience among PA networks in West Africa.

PAs are far from exempt from the impacts of climate change. Rising surface temperatures are likely to lead to shifts in the distribution of species and their population sizes. Existing PAs that were created to protect certain types of species and ecosystems may not do so in the future (Belle et al., 2016). PAs in the mid-latitudes are more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change than others (Belle et al., 2016). Protected area networks in West Africa present an interesting test case for how coördinated management could be improved to enhance resilience and protect biodiversity. 

Climate change is projected to impact ecosystem services in West Africa in many ways. The Met Office Hadley Center (MOHC) used a collection of Regional Climate Model simulations based on IPCC projections to assess climate impacts on protected areas in West Africa. Key findings include an increase in carbon sequestration, increase in vegetation productivity, and a northward shift in existing ecosystems in central and eastern West Africa (Harley, Jones, & James, 2015). 

Assessment of climate impacts on projected areas in five West African nations reveals significant threats to biodiversity in areas already strained by habitat loss and hunting (Belle et al., 2016). As habitat distributions shift with changes in global climate, protected areas are expected to gain and lose species. Species turnover, a measure of the loss and gain of species relative to species richness, is projected to increase for amphibians, birds, and mammals (Thuiller, Lavorel, Araújo, Sykes, & Prentice, 2005). Higher species turnover implies a shift in community composition and suggests high climate change impacts. A recent report from the UNEP found species turnover among amphibians would increase from 26.5% by 2010-2039 and 45.7% by 2070-2090. Turnover for birds and mammals is projected to increase from 32.4% to 34.9% over the same period (Belle et al., 2016). 

As the impacts of climate change intensify in West Africa, it will become increasingly important for PA managers to incorporate climate adaptation strategies into management strategy. This will require a shift in attention from conserving existing systems to one that manages and adapts to change (Belle et al., 2016). Assessing climate vulnerability is an essential component for effective management. Quality assessments can help PA managers identify conservation targets, projections for important climate variables, and understand the ecological impacts of climate change. Additionally, management strategies that incorporate new best practices for adaptation can help managers address the multitude of challenges that arise from spatial shifts in ecosystems. 

Climate change is a global issue. And while its impacts will be more pronounced in climate-sensitive regions, like West Africa, there is a growing need to understand how climate change will impact protected areas and the ways in which protected areas can adapt their management strategies to ecological change. Future siting efforts and assessment metrics should begin to plan for how they will plan for regional shifts in climate and assess the efficacy of adaptation or mitigation policies in protected areas.   

Marine Protected Areas

Indicator Background

The MPA indicator is the only ocean indicator in the Biodiversity & Habitat issue category. It is aligned with a key objective in the Aichi Targets: the protection of 10% of coastal and marine areas globally (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2014). MPAs, like terrestrial PAs, are central to conservation. Marine ecosystems have been adversely impacted by overfishing, habitat loss, and pollution at global and local scales. MPAs are the primary tool for protecting critical marine habitats. MPAs provide refuge for vulnerable species through the protection of habitats from unsustainable fishing practices and other destructive human activities (Gell & Roberts, 2003). They also serve as protected areas for fish populations to spawn and reach maturity, critical life stages to protect in order to support population growth (Gell & Roberts, 2003). Finally, MPAs may promote resilience to climate change (McLeod et al., 2009). The protection of biodiversity in MPAs is furthermore beneficial to local cultures and economies dependent on marine ecosystems (Reuchlin-Hugenholtz & McKenzie, 2015).  

MPAs have increased steadily over the past decade. Since 2014, PAs under national jurisdiction have grown by 1.8% (United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre & International Union for Conservation of Nature, 2016a). According to the WDPA, there are 14,688 MPAs globally. Together, these areas cover 14.9 million square kilometers and make up 10.1% of global marine ecosystems (United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre & International Union for Conservation of Nature, 2016a). Recent growth in MPA coverage can be explained by a combination of existing site expansion and new site creation. According to the WPDA, most of the growth in marine protected areas has focused in national waters, including areas off Australia, New Zealand, the United States (U.S.), the United Kingdom, and Spain (United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre & International Union for Conservation of Nature, 2016a). Under the leadership of President Obama, the U.S. expanded the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Hawaiian Islands from approximately 360,000 square kilometers to 1.5 million square kilometers in August 2016, making it the largest PA on Earth (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2016). 

Data Description

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, a country has sovereign rights to explore, exploit, conserve, and manage the natural resources, both living and non-living, of its exclusive economic zone (EEZ), defined as the area 200 nautical miles off its coastline (United Nations, 1982,). Our indicator on Marine Protected Areas reports on the percentage of a nation's EEZ. It is derived from publicly available data from WDPA, which catalogues data for 245 countries and territories for the years 1990-2017 (United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre, 2017a). This indicator is also constructed, in part, with data from the Flanders Marine Institute's Maritime Boundaries Database. The Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN) uses these datasets to calculate the Marine Protected Areas indicator. It is calculated by dividing the extent of marine protected area within a country's EEZ by its total EEZ.


There are several limitations associated with the MPA indicator. First, while Aichi Target 11 includes protection of coastal and marine waters, separately assessing marine from terrestrial protected habitats may not always be practically useful or ecologically sensible since terrestrial land use and pollution affect coastal marine life. Second, assessing protected areas in EEZs does not include areas beyond national jurisdiction, i.e., the high seas, which represent almost two-thirds of total ocean surface and 80% of the world's living space (PEW Charitable Trusts, 2015). That said, most fishing occurs in national jurisdictions, suggesting that the most formidable impacts on known marine species still occur within EEZs. Evidence suggests that conservation targets based solely on area will do little to optimize protection of marine biodiversity (Edgar et al., 2014). Studies on the size of MPAs on fish populations have revealed negligible or weak effects, suggesting an inherent complexity in ecosystem management (Côté, Mosqueira, & Reynolds, 2001; Halpern, 2003; Vandeperre et al., 2011). Longevity, isolation, protection, and enforcement also impact the ability of MPAs to deliver lasting impacts for ecosystem health and biodiversity. Thus, a metric that can assess the simultaneous interplay between different variables in management strategy would present a more nuanced and holistic assessment of both the driving forces behind success and the arenas in which MPAs are failing to meet their full potential (Halpern, 2014). 

Box 8-2. Conservation out of place: Marine genetic resources and new frontiers for biodiversity.

Marine biodiversity conservation in the high seas and deep seas represents a new frontier. Marine areas beyond national jurisdiction comprise 65% of the ocean's surface and 95% of the ocean's volume. This territory represents tremendous potential for exploring a new realm of biodiversity, and demands strong and coördinated conservation policies (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, 2016). 

Until relatively recently, exploiting the resources of the deepest parts of the oceans was impossible. Even now, deep-sea environments represent a largely uncharted pool of vastly diverse marine organisms. The exploration of such extreme conditions, for which unfamiliar forms and ways of life are likely to have developed, is believed to have great potential for generating innovations (Jaspars et al., 2016, p. 155). For example, marine research in the deep-sea and elsewhere in the oceans has led to the development of cancer-fighting drugs derived from sponges and cosmeceuticals derived from bacteria living in hydrothermal vents (Jaspars et al., 2016, pp. 152, 155). Today, marine genetic resources (MGR), another term that reflects the biodiversity of the oceans, are attracting increasing attention as negotiations continue around the conservation and sustainable use of marine biological diversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. 

No state has sovereignty over marine biodiversity and marine genetic resources in the high seas, but all states, both coastal and landlocked, have rights in areas beyond national jurisdiction. Protected areas beyond national jurisdiction - typically >200 nautical miles - have remained constant in recent years, making just 0.25% of total MPAs (United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre & International Union for Conservation of Nature, 2016a). The question of how to manage and protect the biodiversity of the high and deep seas falls under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, which currently does not explicitly regulate the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (Broggiato, Arnaud-Haond, Chiarolla, & Greiber, 2014, p. 178). 

The CBD, which aims to sustainably manage biodiversity and therefore might be expected to regulate marine biodiversity in the high seas, applies "[i]n the case of components of biological diversity, in areas within the limits of its national jurisdiction" and "[i]n the case of processes and activities, regardless of where their effects occur, carried out under its jurisdiction or control, within the area of its national jurisdiction or beyond the limits of national jurisdiction"  (United Nations, 1992, p. 4-5). In part because of their potential to be highly profitable, MGRs have become a contentious issue in the negotiations (Harden-Davies, 2017, p. 505). These negotiations currently revolve around UN General Assembly resolution 69/292. Among the key issues being discussed is the fair and equitable access to and benefit sharing from marine genetic resources-whether in situ (in natural habitat), ex situ (outside natural habitat), or in silico (in digital form) (Broggiato et al., 2014, p. 183).

Box 8-3. Pilot Indicator. Measuring Wetland Conservation
Note: Vanessa Reis, Australian Rivers Institute, Griffith University

Wetlands provide many natural resources and ecosystem services to humans, yet they have been extensively exploited, degraded, and modified worldwide. Measures to ensure wetland protection have not always been effective. Protected area plans are often not designed to incorporate the processes that sustain the optimal functioning of wetlands. Hydrological dynamics, ecological processes, and biodiversity should be key features of protected area design. In reality, conservation areas are often designated without adequately considering the role of upstream sources of water and nutrients, hydrological connectivity with rivers or other water bodies, wildlife habitat needs and migration corridors, and natural disturbance processes. These shortcomings in protecting wetlands limit their benefits to humans.

In light of the challenges facing wetlands, we aimed to provide a global-scale portrait of the current status of conservation and human influence on wetlands. We combined a global map of inundation extent derived from satellite images with data on threats from human influence and on protected areas. To quantify the local human pressures threatening wetlands, we used the Global Human Footprint Map, which calculates a Human Influence Index from nine global data layers covering population density, human land use, and infrastructure. Our combined dataset provides a comprehensive picture of where wetlands are in the world, how they are protected, and the pressures they face.

Currently, seasonal inland wetlands represent approximately 6% of the world's land surface, and about 89% of these are unprotected - as defined by protected areas under IUCN Categories I-VI and Ramsar sites, see Figure 8-1. Wetland protection ranges from 20% in Central America and 18% in South America to only 8% in Asia. Particularly high human influence was found in Asia, containing the largest wetland area in the world. High human influence was also found in the wetlands of Europe, Central America, and North America - excluding the large area of boreal and Arctic wetlands in Canada and Alaska. Variable levels of human pressure were found in wetlands within protected areas. As a general trend, wetlands in protected areas of IUCN Categories I-IV were less impacted than the other categories and the Ramsar sites. Oceania was an exception, where the Ramsar sites were less subjected to impact. 

It is concerning that only a small fraction of global seasonal wetlands is covered by protected areas - 11.3% overall. An even smaller fraction is protected under the stricter IUCN Categories I-IV. Adding to that, high levels of human influence in some of the protected wetland areas indicate that the local ecological condition of protected wetlands may also be compromised. These findings underscore the urgent need for more effective conservation measures. 

The information provided in this study is important for wetland conservation planning and reveals that the current paradigm of wetland protection may be inadequate. Considering the rapid increase in human population and pressures on global wetlands, urgent action is needed to develop better frameworks for wetland conservation planning. Identifying specific conservation needs of the different wetland types, considering their variation in space and time, as well as their functions and landscape context, will help support the development of more effective conservation plans. 

Map 8-2

Map 8-2. Global map showing the extent of seasonal inland wetlands in unprotected and protected areas, as defined by IUCN I-VI and Ramsar sites.
Source: Reis et al., 2017

Species Protection Index

Indicator Background

The SPI measures how much suitable habitat for a county's species is under protection and estimates the biodiversity representativeness of terrestrial protection areas (Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network, 2015). We use the SPI to assess Aichi Target 11, which aims to increase global protected terrestrial and inland water areas to 17% of total land area by 2020 (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2014). 

Data Description

The Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network Secretariat developed the SPI as part of a new set of indicators for biodiversity in collaboration with Map of Life and CSIRO. Data for the indicator are available for a rapidly growing list of more than 30,000 species of terrestrial vertebrates, invertebrates, and plant species (Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network, 2015). The SPI leverages remote-sensing data, a global biodiversity informatics infrastructure, and integrative models. The index uses annual terrestrial species and environmental data from Landsat and moderate-resolution imaging spectroradiometer (MODIS) satellites to map and measure suitable species habitat at high resolutions (Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network, 2015). The proportion under protection are quantified and updated on an annual basis to reflect any changes in PAs and suitable habitat. The index thus represents the aggregate of species-level metrics for a given spatial unit, such as individual countries or biomes, and may be calculated for varying minimum sizes or categories of protected areas separated by biological group (Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network, 2015). All underlying data and metrics for the SPI are available through the Map of Life (, a web interface developed with Google Earth that leverages biodiversity data and high resolution habitat information to map suitable species locations. SPI data are validated with over 350 million field records on species locations from surveys and citizen science (Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network, 2015). 


While remote sensing provides information on biodiversity at global and local scales with relative ease, limitations stem from its ability to match spatial resolution with the granularity required for species conservation on the ground (Zeller, Nijhawan, Salom-Pérez, Potosme, & Hines, 2011). Differences in satellite imagery resolution can also engender stark differences in land cover classifications and subsequent patch-level metrics, such as habitat size, shape, and connectivity (Boyle et al., 2014). The SPI uses MODIS and Landsat data with resolutions ranging from 1 km to 30 m (Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network, 2015). The lower the resolution, the more difficult it becomes to evaluate ecosystem connectivity and corridors with accuracy without field verification (Zeller et al., 2011). Improving the resolution of free or low-cost sources of satellite imagery will assist in monitoring and benchmarking progress in conservation at scale. 

Box 8-4.The role of citizen science in biodiversity data collection and monitoring.

High-level biodiversity targets, like the CBD Aichi Targets, rely on accurate reporting of changes in the status and trends of global biodiversity. Remote sensing through Earth observation systems can help scientists track changes in ecosystem composition by type, nutrient retention, and ecosystem fragmentation on a large scale with improved efficiency and standardization. Unfortunately, remote sensing and aerial imagery are limited in their ability to assess all changes in biodiversity. Thus, assessment of certain measures of biodiversity still require human-assisted data collection (O'Connor et al., 2015; Proença et al., 2017), a process often hindered by a limited number of professionals with adequate funding. 

Recent changes in technology and the rise of crowdsourcing data-collection applications have made it possible to access data collected by members of the interested public, called citizen scientists, over large geographic regions with ease (Howe, 2006; Lepczyk et al., 2009). Citizen science thus offers the scientific community another way to monitor changes in biodiversity, which could improve the way it monitors species populations and ecosystems at regional and global scales. 

While citizen science programs cover a wide range of taxonomies of global biodiversity, uneven distributions in the type, spatial range, and frequency of recorded observations across different taxonomic groups generate imbalances in the types of organisms who benefit from them. Birds, for example, have benefitted the most from citizen science. Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), for example, has 300 million recorded bird observations and make up 54% of all records (Chandler et al., 2017). Reptiles, by comparison, make up just 1% of all GBIF observations (Chandler et al., 2017). 

Spatial distributions of citizen science observations, like taxa, are also unevenly distributed - see Map 8-2. One assessment of citizen science programs found data collection efforts are most focused in North America (184 programs or 44% of total) and Europe (136 programs or 32% of total) (Chandler et al., 2017). Few citizen science programs were found in Africa, Asia, and Central and South America. Expansion of citizen science efforts in these areas could aid in the collection of data on rare species and serve as an early detection system for invasive species. However, environmental managers and scientists should also note that citizen science can often produce its own biases and limitations (Bonney et al., 2014).  

Map 8-3
Map 8-3.Distribution species records from citizen science projects in the GBIF by continent - as of March 31, 206.
Source: Chandler et al., 2017.

Correcting imbalances in available citizen science data could improve national and global biodiversity reporting. Species habitat indices, for example, use citizen science observations to verify remoting sensing data on changes in a species' habitat. However, imbalances in data distributions may impede citizen science programs' abilities to improve tracking and reporting systems. Correcting for imbalances will require actors to improve citizen science programs in under-utilized volunteer networks and develop a standardized method for syncing projects and information. Issues with resource availability, technical needs, and requirements for new databases, however, could still limit the impact of citizen science in regions in need of it most (Chandler et al., 2017). Efforts to make program more compatible and initiatives to standardize the type of data citizens gather could streamline the classification process, making it easier to make us of large datasets (Chandler et al., 2017). 

Protected Area Representativeness Index

Indicator Background

The PARI indicator measures the extent to which terrestrial protected areas are representative of the ecosystems and habitats within a country. Globally, there are eight biogeographic terrestrial realms and 14 biomes that contain 867 ecoregions (Olson et al., 2001, p. 933). Past conservation efforts prioritized areas that did not conflict with other human needs, rather than where protection was most important for biodiversity (Pressey, Visconti, & Ferraro, 2015). Today, nations are making a concerted effort to protect under-represented areas and ensure fair ecological representation of species. However, much progress remains if countries are to meet the ecological representativeness requirement in Aichi Target 11. Evidence from a recent study suggests fewer than half of the 25,000 listed species in most groups had a sufficient proportion of their distributions covered by protected areas (Butchart et al., 2015). Our PARI indicator recognizes the importance of designating conservation areas that reflect the ranges and habitats of the species they wish to protect. 

Figure 8-1

Figure 8-1. Major steps involved in the construction of the Protected Areas Representative Index (PARI).
Source: Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network, 2015, p. 11

Data Description

The PARI provides a cost-effective approach to assess the extent to which global terrestrial protected areas are ecologically representative (Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network, 2015). The PARI is calculated for ecological representativeness, measured as the proportion of biologically-scaled environmental diversity included in protected areas - see Figure 8-1. The index uses remote environmental mapping, biodiversity informatics (information sharing), and microeconomic logical modeling to track progress on Aichi Target 11. Data are sourced from the WDPA and NASA's MODIS Land Cover Change Dataset at a 1 km grid resolution. Biodiversity composition is derived by scaling environmental and geographical gradients from over 300 million local records of more than 400,000 plant, invertebrate, and vertebrate species (Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network, 2015). Data are then integrated with PA boundaries from the WDPA and land use data for surrounding landscapes, derived from NASA's MCD12Q1 dataset. 


Datasets, such as the WPDA, aim to provide improved assessments of conservation progress though enhanced spatial data on protected area cover, biodiversity, and land cover. These efforts make it possible to develop a standardized set of metrics to track conservation progress at the local and global level. However, biodiversity datasets may fail to provide local governments, managers, and communities with the sufficient spatial and thematic detail required to effectively monitor biodiversity in single protected areas (Chape et al., 2005) or regional park networks (Pereira & Davidcooper, 2006). As with the SPI indicator, concerns over MODIS' and other remote sensing products' abilities to produce images at the fine resolution necessary to draw accurate conclusions about the state of conservation remain a large limitation in their applicability and use.  

Box 8-5. Pilot Indicator. Biodiversity Habitat Index

Due to the key role habitat plays in maintaining biodiversity, habitat loss and degradation are primary causes for biodiversity loss worldwide (Juffe-Bignoli et al., 2014; Wilson et al., 2016). In 2010, parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) agreed to adopt 20 ambitious conservation goals, called the Aichi Targets (Executive Secretary, Convention on Biological Diversity, 2016). Among the Targets, the CBD requires nations to take urgent and effective action to halt the loss of biodiversity. Aichi Target 5 specifically addresses the importance of habitat protection, stating: "[b]y 2020, the rate of loss of all natural habitats, including forests, is at least halved and where feasible brought close to zero, and degradation and fragmentation is significantly reduced" (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2014). 

Different indicators are used to measure progress toward the Aichi Targets. Each provides distinct ways of understanding the magnitude of threats and pressures to various dimensions of biodiversity (Leverington, Costa, Pavese, Lisle, & Hockings, 2010; Tittensor et al., 2014). The Biodiversity Habitat Index (BHI) is one indicator in a suite of new indicators developed under the auspices of the Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network (GEO BON) in order to assess progress toward various Aichi Targets (Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network, 2015). The BHI, created by Australia's Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization in partnership with the Global Biodiversity Information Facility, Map of Life, and the Projecting Responses of Ecological Diversity In Changing Terrestrial System Project, assesses progress toward Aichi Target 5 by estimating the impacts of habitat loss, degradation, and habitat fragmentation on the retention of terrestrial biodiversity. The BHI uses modeling to link remote-sensing data to occurrence records for more than 400,000 species of plants, vertebrates, and invertebrates, thereby assessing change across the entire terrestrial surface of the planet at a one km grid resolution (Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network, 2015, p. 6). The BHI for each grid cell is derived by estimating the proportion of habitat remaining across all grid cells that are ecologically similar to that cell, with ecological similarity ranging from zero, for cells predicted to have no species in common, to one, for cells predicted to have exactly the same set of species. The BHI for a given reporting unit - e.g. a country or an ecoregion - is then calculated as a weighted geometric mean of the scores obtained for all cells within that unit (Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network, 2015). 

Figure 8-2
Figure 8-2.Major steps involved in the derivation of the BHI
Note: Steps involve the integration of environmental, biological, and habitat-change data.
Source: Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network, 2015

Figure 8-3
Figure 8-3. BHI reporting for Peru's neotropical moist forest biome
Note: Data is based on analysis of Hansen et al.'s Global Forest Change dataset. Charts are aggregated both across Peru and across the entire biome. The BHI is the average across plants, invertebrates, and vertebrates for 2013. 
Source: Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network, 2015

Understanding the patterns of habitat loss and degradation is imperative as it provides insight into trends in biodiversity and ecosystem health needed to make informed decisions on resource use and protection (World Health Organization, n.d.). The BHI is currently available only for forest biomes, with the extension of reporting to include all terrestrial biomes expected in 2018, but it offers a valuable starting point to understand the state of habitats globally.

Species Habitat Index

Indicator Background

The SHI indicator is new to the 2018 EPI. It measures the proportion of habitat that remains within a country relative to a baseline set in the year 2001. Habitat loss is a primary driver in species extinction, particularly in areas of high biodiversity (Brooks et al., 2002). The SHI indicator serves as a proxy for potential population losses and assesses the extinction risk at regional and global levels. It is intended to assess progress on CBD Aichi Targets 5 and 12, which aim to halve or reduce habitat loss and fragmentation and prevent extinction (Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, 2014). 

Data Description

The SHI data come from the Map of Life, a biodiversity mapping and monitoring tool using Google Earth Engine that leverages remote sensing data, local observations, and models in a web-based informatics infrastructure to report progress on CBD Aichi Targets (Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network, 2015). Habitat range indices are available for over 20,000 terrestrial vertebrate, invertebrate, and plant species (Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network, 2015). Data are validated using a growing pool of over 300 million location records (Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network, 2015). Each species' suitable habitat range is constructed from remote sensing data and modeled using scientific literature, expert-based data on habitat restrictions, and published land cover products from MODIS and Landsat satellites. Maps are validated by field data on species locations sourced from surveys and citizen science. Changes in species habitat are quantified and reported annually.   


Datasets used to evaluate Aichi targets 5 and 12 are often limited by inadequate geographic representation, coarse disaggregation and temporal resolution, lack of transparency, and lack of scientific validation (Group on Earth Observations Biodiversity Observation Network, 2015). The SHI aims to address these limitations by making use of highly resolved remote sensing data near the global level and pairing them with biodiversity observations and transparent modeling frameworks. Remote sensing assessment tools, however, may be insufficient in their ability to accurately report on land use and land cover change. A 2016 survey of over 300 geospatial data sources found that existing products still cannot produce a global standardized view of landscape change on a timescale that allows for appropriate conservation action (Joppa et al., 2016). 

Box 8-6. Pilot Indicator. Invasive Species.

Invasive species are one of the primary threats to biodiversity after habitat loss and climate change (World Wide Fund for Nature, 2016). In addition to their negative impacts on biodiversity, invasive species can impose significant additional economic and health costs (Leung et al., 2002; Molnar, Gamboa, Revenga, & Spalding, 2008; Pimentel, Zuniga, & Morrison, 2005). Our 2018 Biodiversity & Habitat issue category features six indicators that measure a country's ability to expand spatial demarcations for conservation and improve habitat integrity. Introducing an additional indicator that quantifies the effects of invasive species on biodiversity into future iterations of the EPI would thus produce a more comprehensive metric. However, global efforts to inventory and assess invasive species uniformly at the global level are still relatively nascent.

Photo 8-1
Photograph 8-1. Image of invasive species Phragmites australis. 
Note: Photograph taken at Willows Lakes in Hertfordshire, United Kindgdom.
Source: Peter O'Connor, 2012

Designing a comprehensive metric for invasive species poses many challenges. First, developing an exhaustive list of invasive species and their geographic penetration is difficult (Turbelin, Malamud, & Francis, 2017, p. 82). Second, the impacts of a single invasive species vary depending on the ecological and economic characteristics of the geographic area facing invasion (Paini et al., 2016; Williamson & Fitter, 1996). In one study, 75 species of non-native crops were analyzed in Britain and Canada. None of the species became pests in Britain. However, three were found to be pests in Canada, illustrating the differential effects of the same species across ecosystems (Williamson & Fitter, 1996, p. 1662). Even if a species becomes a pest in multiple locations, the economic impacts could still be very different. For example, a pest will have a greater economic impact on a nation that is heavily reliant on the damaged crop. Finally, even if a metric satisfying the conditions above is created, it would still be of limited use to the EPI because it would penalize countries for introductions beyond their control, and thus not necessarily be responsive to policy choices. These challenges demonstrate the difficulty in creating a consistent, simple, policy-relevant metric that can be applied to all countries.

Currently, there is no metric that satisfies these requirements, but efforts are currently underway to address these gaps. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) developed the Global Invasive Species Database (GISD, and more recently collaborated with the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity to create the Global Register of Introduced and Invasive Species (GRIIS, While these resources describe the presence of various invasive species across the globe, they do not yet provide comprehensive information about species' impacts. The databases also lack a rigorous method of summarizing the total impact of invasive species at the country level. However, these sources provide an important foundation for further work to measure countries' performance in managing invasive species.

While GISD and GRIIS provide raw information about invasive species, other organizations are also working to transform data into metrics that can be used to assess performance. Paini et al. created a country-level agricultural threat index specifically for invasive insect pests and pathogens (2016). This study calculates a score and rank for 124 countries, but data is limited to a small subset of invasive species, and only measures the impacts on agricultural production. While Paini et al. (2016) provide valuable information about the potential threats of invasive species, they do not focus on their current impacts. Nonetheless, the agricultural threat index is a promising step forward in metrics on invasive species, especially because it also touches on the issue category of Agriculture.

Specifically referencing the focus on the harms caused by invasive species in the Sustainable Development Goals (Target 15.8) and Aichi Biodiversity Targets (Target 9), the IUCN promoted a more comprehensive effort to classify invasive species by their ecosystem threats (International Union for the Conservation of Nature, 2016, p. 52). The proposed system, the Environmental Impact Classification for Alien Taxa (EICAT), classifies non-native species based on their maximum observed impact as invasive species (Blackburn et al., 2014). Explicit calls on governments and scientists to adopt and apply the EICAT by the IUCN may help spur action to collect data to implement this classification system (International Union for the Conservation of Nature, 2016). However, even if countries accomplish this task, there are still hurdles that will need to be overcome before the EICAT system can serve as a useful metric, such as ensuring standardized measurement techniques (Kumschick et al., 2017), and finding a way to account for the heterogeneous impact of invasive species across countries. This final step is important, as the impacts of non-native species vary by location (Williamson & Fitter, 1996). While these challenges must still be resolved, much progress has been made in recent years in developing more comprehensive metrics to address the environmental threats posed by invasive species.


Global Trends

Global trends reveal measurable improvements in three indicators: marine protected areas, terrestrial biome protection (global weights), and protected area representativeness - see Table 8-1. Data indicate that, globally, countries are expanding the total area of land and marine environments under protection and focusing those conservation efforts on biomes which may require it most. Global trend data are not available for the species protection index and species habitat index indicators. 

Table 8–1. Global trends in Biodiversity & Habitat.
Indicator Metric Score
  Baseline Current Baseline Current
Marine protected area 4.8% 11.5% 47.9 100.0
Terrestrial biome protection (global weights) 9.7% 10.9% 57.0 64.3
Protected area representativeness index 0.08 0.10 26.6 37.0/td>

Note: MPA metric represents the percentage of EEZ protected. Terrestrial Biome Protection measures the percentage of biomes protected (capped). Representativeness is a unitless measure that evaluates the extent to which PAs are representative of a country's ecosystems and habitats. Current refers to the most recently available data, and Baseline refers to historic data approximately ten years previous to Current.

Over the past ten years, the world has witnessed a considerable improvement in marine ecosystem protection. Global MPA scores increased by a staggering 52.1 points from a 47.9 baseline. Recent efforts to expand MPAs translate into large improvements in its respective EPI score. The perfect score (100) indicates that, globally, nations have achieved the 10% conservation goal outlined in Aichi Target 11. Our results conform with statistics reported in the UNEP-WCMC and IUCN's 2016 Protected Planet report, which found that the international community has achieved Aichi Target 11 for marine protection in areas under national jurisdiction (United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre & International Union for Conservation of Nature, 2016a). Our 2018 data show 6.7-point increase in marine protected areas - as a % of a country's EEZ - from a 4.8% baseline to 11.5%. 

Recent growth in marine protected area coverage can be explained by a combination of existing site expansion and new site creation (United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre & International Union for Conservation of Nature, 2016a). Most of the growth in MPAs has occurred within the jurisdiction of a small group of countries: Australia, New Zealand, the United States (U.S.), the United Kingdom, and Spain (United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre & International Union for Conservation of Nature, 2016a). In the U.S., President Barack Obama expanded the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in the Hawaiian Islands from approximately 360,000 square kilometers (km2) to 1.5 million km2 in August 2016, making it the largest protected area on Earth (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 2016). Other significant conservation efforts over the past ten years include Chile's proposed Nazca-Desventuradas Marine Park (300,035 km2), the United Kingdom's proposed Marine Protected Area in St. Helena (444,916 km2), Palau's National Marine Sanctuary Act (~500,000 km2), and the United Kingdom's Pitcairn Islands Marine Reserve (800,000 km2) (United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre & International Union for Conservation of Nature, 2016b, pp. 32-33). 

New commitments in marine protection indicate a growing momentum to expand conservation efforts beyond existing global targets. In late 2017, Mexican President, Enrique Peña Nieto, established four new MPAs (International Union for the Conservation of Nature, 2017b). Mexico's PA at Revillagigedo is now the largest no fishing area in North America (International Union for the Conservation of Nature, 2017a). The Revillagigedo MPA supports nearly 360 species of fish, coral colonies, and for species of sea turtle (Bello, 2017). If global trends continue, national expansion of MPAs, coupled with effective regulation and management, could yield considerable improvements for global marine ecosystems and the economic systems they power. 

Our 2018 data also reveal improvements in terrestrial biome protection - global and representativeness. Terrestrial biome protection - global scores increased 7.3 points -  to 64.3 - relative to a 57.0-point baseline in 2007. We estimate that 10.9% of terrestrial biomes are protected globally in 2018, up from their 2007 baseline of 9.7%. We find that terrestrial biome protection must increase substantially to meet the 17% goal outlined in Aichi Target 11. The modest change in 2018 terrestrial biome protection scores from their baseline may have been impacted by changes to the WDPA. The total area reported in the database fell from 15.4% in 2014 to 14.7% in 2016 due to boundary changes in reported protected area coverage (United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre & International Union for Conservation of Nature, 2016a). Additionally, the UNEP-WCMC and IUCN acknowledge the lag time associated with registering new protected areas and acknowledge that many recently added protected areas remain to be captured in the WDPA coverage (United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre & International Union for Conservation of Nature, 2016a).

PARI scores increased by 10.4 points - now 37.0 - from a 26.6 baseline in 2000. According to the UNEP-WCMC and IUCN, 10% of the world's terrestrial ecoregions have at least half of their area protected, 43% have at least 17% protected, and 6% have less than 1% protected (United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre & International Union for Conservation of Nature, 2016a). Data indicate that conservation efforts should continue to promote conservation in underrepresented ecoregions of biological importance.

Leaders & Laggards

Global leaders in Biodiversity & Habitat are relatively consistent with their baseline scores. Zambia maintains its position as a global leader, receiving high scores for both baseline and current years, while Botswana (+1), Germany (+3), the United Kingdom (+12), Luxembourg (+5), Namibia (+42), Belgium (+1), and Spain (+11) move up relative to their respective baseline scores, as seen in Table 8-2.

8-2. Leaders in Biodiversity & Habitat.
Rank Country Score
1 Zambia 98.75
2 Botswana 98.31
3 Germany 96.92
4 United Kingdom 96.69
5 Luxembourg 96.54
6 Poland 96.37
7 Bhutan 96.30
8 Namibia 95.75
9 Belgium 95.70
10 Spain 95.66

Global leader Zambia is a country of rich biological diversity. In recent years, the Government of Zambia has focused conservation efforts on sustainable management of its forests, water resources, and wetlands (Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources, and Environmental Protection, 2015, p. v). These efforts are reflected in its high Biodiversity & Habitat score. According to the World Protected Area Database, Zambia has 635 protected areas covering 37.9% of its total land area (United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre, 2017b). Zambia's aggregate 2018 Biodiversity & Habitat score is 98.75, a 0.5-point reduction from its baseline. The small decline in its aggregate score result from a drop in its species habitat index score - 97.99 in 2000 and 91.67 in its baseline year. Declines in SPI, however, were largely offset by improvements in its PARI score - 97.76 in 2000 and 100 in 2016. 

Today, Zambia's efforts to protect biodiversity are outlined in its National Biodiversity Strategy Action Plan and Strategic Plan on Biodiversity, which outline a strategy for conservation from 2011-2020 aligned to the 2020 Aichi Targets (Ministry of Lands, Natural Resources, and Environmental Protection, 2015). Current goals and targets include: reducing direct pressures on biodiversity by mainstreaming conservation across government and society, reducing direct pressures on biodiversity, safeguarding species and genetic diversity, enhancing the benefits of ecosystem services, and enhancing policy implementation through planning, knowledge management and capacity building (p. v-vi).

Other global leaders include several European nations (Germany, United Kingdom, Luxembourg, Poland, Belgium, and Spain), all of whom belong to the European Union (EU). The EU has an extensive biodiversity framework, which began with its Birds Directive in April 1979 (European Commission, 2016). The EU's Natura 2000, a network of core breeding and resting sites for rare or threatened species, spans all land and sea territories of all 28 member states (European Commission, 2017). Today, Natura 2000 covers 18% of the EU's land area and nearly 6% of its marine environment, making it the largest coördinated network of protected areas in the world (European Commission, 2017). 

Among the EU leaders, the United Kingdom's impressive 12-place increase in the global Biodiversity & Habitat rankings stands out. The United Kingdom's drastic score increase was largely due to large improvements in its MPA indicator score, which increased from 88.33 in 2007 to 100 in 2017. The United Kingdom's score increase can be attributed to the creation of new protected areas in its overseas territories. In 2016, the Governor or the Pitcairn Islands established the 830,000 square-kilometer Pitcairn Islands MPA (Islands of Pitcairn, Henderson, Ducie, and Oeno, 2016). The government also plans to create a new PA nearly the size of the United Kingdom off the waters of Ascension Island (Harrabin, 2016). 

Global laggards in Biodiversity & Habitat are relatively consistent between their current and baseline years. Afghanistan maintains its 180th position, while many countries experienced drops in global standings: Haiti (-3), Lesotho (-1), Cabo Verde (-4), Libya (-4), Singapore (-4), Jordan (-4), Turkey (-7), Solomon Islands (-4) - see Table 8-3. Global laggard trends reveal the difficulties in sustainably managing biological diversity countries with spatial constraints and economic and political instability. 

Table 8-3. Laggards in Biodiversity & Habitat.
Rank Country Score
171 Solomon Islands 24.17
172 Turkey 23.05
173 Jordan 21.32
174 Maldives 19.33
175 Singapore 21.10
176 Libya 20.43
177 Cabo Verde 20.67
178 Lesotho 17.43
179 Haiti 17.83
180 Afghanistan 13.44

Singapore's low score is largely the result of its small land area and rapid economic development. Over a 182-year period, Singapore lost over 95% of its original forest and vegetative cover, first to agricultural production and later to urbanization and industrialization (Corlett, 1992). This has caused high rates of species loss and extinction (Brook, Sodhi, & Ng, 2003). A 2003 study estimated that forest reserves, which covered 0.25% of Singapore's land area, harbored over 50% of its remaining biodiversity (Brook et al., 2003, p. 420). Today, Singapore has four PAs covering 5.6% of its total land area (United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre, 2018a).

Singapore is developing new strategies to improve biodiversity in its highly-urbanized landscape. Singapore has increased natural cover to half of its land area over the past 30 years (Conniff, 2018). Urban parks, like the 250-acre Gardens by the Bay park, demonstrate creative ways to integrate built and natural environments in an increasingly urbanized world (Kolczak, 2017). Its City Biodiversity Index arose in response to the need to monitor species diversity in the built environment. The index gives environmental managers a tool to self-report and benchmark conservation efforts in their cities (Singapore National Parks Board, 2015). If successful, Singapore's efforts could serve as a model for how growing urban environments may incorporate species conservation into their development plans. 

Turkey, ranked 172 out of 180 countries, presents another interesting learning opportunity for how countries might build a conservation strategy from the ground up. Turkey is in the midst of a conservation crisis (Şekercioğlu et al., 2011). Three of the world's 34 biodiversity hotspots are found within Turkey's geographic borders (Mittermeier, 2004). To date, Turkey has protected only 0.2% of its land area and 0.11% of its marine environment (United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre, 2018b). Efforts are underway to achieve the 2020 Aichi Targets in Turkey. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization and Global Environment Facility are working with Turkish government to enhance conservation and sustainable management in its steppe ecosystems though protected area management and conservation. The project will facilitate the development of new management practices, provide support to protected area managers, and assist in the creation of supplemental policy and regulatory supports (Global Environment Facility & Food and Agriculture Organization, 2014).  

Our 2018 results also reveal interesting narratives outside of the highest and lowest performing countries. Namibia - ranked 11th - improved its Biodiversity & Habitat score by 12 points over a ten-year period. Namibia's deep commitment to biodiversity and environmental protection are embedded in its history. Namibia was the first African country to incorporate the environment into its constitution. Following its independence in 1990, the government returned ownership its wildlife to the people, employing a successful, community-based management system that gave its citizens the right to create conservancies (Conniff, 2011; World Wide Fund for Nature, 2011). Today, Namibia has 148 protected areas covering 37.89% of its terrestrial environmental and 1.71% of its EEZ (United Nations Environment Programme World Conservation Monitoring Centre, 2017b). Many PAs are managed by local community groups, whose members often have little formal education. According to the Ministry of Environment and Tourism, there are 83 registered conservatories in Namibia covering 19.8 of the country's land area (Namibian Association of CBNRM Support Organisations, n.d.). Most conservancies earn revenue through trophy hunting, a contentious issue that continues to complicate conservation efforts in the region (Nuwer, 2017). 

Another story of interest is Colombia. Colombia, the second-most biodiverse country in the world (Palmer, 2017), made modest gains (8.34-point increase) over a ten-year period. Shifting political dynamics within the country following the peace deal between the government and the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) present an interesting challenge for the government: how it can expand conservation efforts while promoting economic development in post-conflict regions (Palmer, 2017). As FARC vacates its territory, new areas of land are opening for business. Land grabs for timber harvesting, illegal gold mining, and expansion of grazing land for cattle threaten natural rainforest habitat (Moloney, 2017). To address illegal logging, the government plans to train 1,100 ex FARC fighters to track and report illegal logging and promote sustainable farming and ecotourism (Moloney, 2017). Efforts to protect rainforest habitat are also expanding. The government has doubled the area of its national parks since 2010 and plans to expand protected areas in post-conflict regions in 2018 (Palmer, 2017). Colombia's uphill battle to protect its wildlands is far from over; however, if it can design and implement effective policy, it may be a country to watch in the subsequent EPI rankings. 



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