Assessing the contribution of protected areas to ecosystem services
Beyond protecting biodiversity, protected areas can contribute to maintaining or enhancing the supply of ecosystem services. At the global level, forest protected areas have been shown to provide a substantial proportion of the drinking water for one-third of the world's 100 largest cities (Dudley and Stolton, 2003) and more than 1.1 billion people depend on forest protected areas for a significant part of their livelihoods (Mulongoy and Gidda, 2008). Regarding carbon, terrestrial protected areas account for approximately 20% of the carbon sequestered by all land ecosystems (Melillo et al., 2016).
Marine protected areas are also of vital importance for the delivery of ecosystem services, including for tourism, fisheries and coastal protection. As highlighted at the UN Oceans Conference (2018), marine protected areas contribute substantially to social, economic and environmental benefits including through food security, livelihood security, poverty alleviation, disaster-risk reduction and climate change mitigation and adaptation. Specifically, corals and mangroves provide a number of valuable services to local communities across the world but not all of them are within protected areas. For instance, globally, 28.6% of coral reef fisheries biomass, 20.4% of coral reef coastal protection (US$), and 44.3% of coral reef tourism value (US$) lies within protected areas (see Figure below for an example). Similarly, protected areas contribute 31% of mangrove fisher catch and 35.7% of mangrove above-ground biomass. These areas that supply important ecosystem services should therefore be prioritized for protection.
Example of marine ecosystem services coral coastal protection (A) and coral fisheries (B) and their location in relation to protected areas in south Sulawesi, Indonesia.
Source: UNEP-WCMC and IUCN. 2018a. Protected Planet: The World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA), July 2018 version, Cambridge, UK: UNEP-WCMC and IUCN. Available at: www.protectedplanet.net.*
*These values were derived from calculating the proportion of five ecosystem services within protected areas globally. The analyses included the WDPA July 2018 and datasets on the global value of coral reef tourism (Spalding et al., 2017), global mangrove forest biomass (Hutchison et al., 2014), global mangrove fisheries (Hutchison et al., 2015). For a description and methods of the global coral fisheries and global coral coastal protection datasets see https://oceanwealth.org/ecosystem-services and select Fisheries and coastal protection options.