2018 Report

Protected area coverage of freshwater ecosystems

Freshwater is of vital importance for the survival of all life on Earth. Freshwater ecosystems occupy less than 1% of the earth's surfaces, but could possibly contain as much as 12% of all known species (Garcia-Moreno et al., 2014). However, around 64-71% of global wetlands extent has been lost in the past century (Davidson, 2014), and freshwater species are among the most threatened on earth (Garcia-Moreno et al., 2014).

Protected area coverage of freshwater ecosystems globally is estimated to range between 11-21%, depending on which methodology and freshwater dataset are used. For example, an analysis of protected area coverage of rivers, lakes, and reservoirs included in the Global Lakes and Wetlands Database (GLWD; Lehner and Döll, 2004), showed that globally 20.7% of freshwater ecosystems were within protected areas (Juffe-Bignoli et al., 2014). However in 2017, another global analysis of protected areas with IUCN Category I–VI and Ramsar sites concluded that about 89% of these were unprotected. The table below shows published estimates of protected area coverage of inland waters from different sources.

Global protected area coverage estimate

Water-related ecosystem type

Dataset used

Source

12%

Inland water types; drainage layer categories

Global Land Cover (GLC) 2000

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005)

21%

Inland water types; nine categories

Global Lakes and Wetlands Database

Juffe-Bignoli et al. (2014)

11%

Seasonal inland wetlands; excludes open inland water types such as rivers, lakes and reservoirs.

GIEMS-D15, a downscaled Global Inundation Extent dataset from Multi- Satellites (GIEMS)

Reis et al. (2017)

16%

Rivers with an average ow of at least 0.1 cubic metre per sec

HydroSHEDS

Abell et al. (2017)

Global estimates of protected area coverage of inland water systems. Protected area extent metrics are based on the WDPA.