Identification of global priorities for new mountain protected and conserved areas


The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) Mountains Specialist Group has developed a paper on Identification of Global Priorities for New Mountain Protected and Conserved Areas. This mountain project aims to identify inadequately protected mountain areas and prioritize their importance for protection and conservation, and provide a basis for the Mountain Specialist Group and others to advocate for new mountain protected and conserved areas.

The world’s system of protected and conserved areas includes many outstanding areas within the Earth’s mountainous landscape. Excluding Antarctica, about 19 percent of mountain areas globally are protected or conserved. Nevertheless, significant mountain areas are not adequately protected, and many mountain ranges are completely unprotected. Of over 6 000 Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) in mountains worldwide, 40.4 percent are entirely unprotected.

As the United Nations Decade on Ecosystem Restoration advocates to expand the global coverage of protected areas over the next ten years toward 30 percent, identifying priorities for new mountain protected and conserved areas will be more effective if it takes a strategic approach to ensure areas of highest ecological value and most in need of protection are identified.

The Mountain Specialist Group’s paper describes in detail the project and a six step decision support tool for identifying and prioritizing candidate areas for conserving mountain ecosystems, species and habitats.

The tool begins with an analysis of the adequacy of the level of protection of mountain KBAs. It then quantitatively assesses if the inadequately protected mountain KBA is also characterized by:

  • inadequately protected mountain ecosystems;
  • biodiversity hotspots,;
  • red-listed species and/or communities;
  • other forms of effective conservation; and
  • being within a Developing Country.

The tool is framed on the notion that any of the more than 6 000 mountain KBAs can be allocated into one of nine categories:

  • four (Categories A1, A2, B1, B2) that identify inadequately protected areas prioritized for heightened consideration;
  • two (Categories E & F) for which no further action is required unless circumstances change; and
  • three (Categories C, D & G) not requiring further action due to being deemed adequately protected.

“The ambition to seek 30 percent global coverage of protected and conserved areas by 2030 is commendable, but it is equally important to ensure that poorly protected biomes and ecosystems are the priority for protection and conservation,” said Peter Jacobs, Chair of the IUCN WCPA Mountain Specialist Group and corresponding author of the paper and decision support tool. “This paper presents a decision support tool to help identify where the priorities are for expanding the protected and conserved areas in mountains. The intent is to catalyse regionally-based conversations that will encourage and inform advocacy, to achieve the best outcome by 2030. People with an interest in advocating for protection and conservation of mountains anywhere can form alliances and work through this process for their region of interest.”

The paper and decision support tool, available as a Microsoft Excel document, can be found on the IUCN WCPA Mountains Specialist Group web page.

Subscribe to the IUCN WCPA Mountain Update

Photo by: ©Arslan Ahmed

Home > mountain-partnership > News