Carbon, biodiversity & ecosystem services:
exploring co-benefits

Protected areas

© Monika Bertzky

Protected areas can play a vital role in mitigating climate change and securing co-benefits. By combining the World Database on Protected Areas (managed by UNEP-WCMC) with a global carbon map it was estimated that about 15% of the world’s carbon stocks are currently in protected areas (Campbell et al.2008a). However, it is not certain that these carbon stocks are actually safe. Other analyses have shown that deforestation and degradation does not necessarily stop at protected area boundaries (e.g. Campbell et al.2008b).

However, the 85% of carbon outside of protected areas may be even more vulnerable, so there is a clear need to identify ways to ensure the maintenance of these stocks. In some cases designating new protected areas and expanding existing ones may be appropriate, while in others carbon management approaches may become an essential component of regimes for the sustainable management of land.

By overlaying carbon maps with maps of protected areas for individual countries, the amount of carbon within protected areas can be estimated at the national level. The results can be used as a basis for discussing the safety of carbon within protected areas as well as management options for carbon outside them. They become still more useful when more information on the spatial distribution of biodiversity and ecosystem services is included in the analyses.

A protected area is 'a clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values'. (Dudley, N. (Ed.) (2008). Guidelines for Applying Protected Area Management Categories. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. x + 86pp.)