Protected areas are a global conservation success story, with more than 220,000 protected areas across the planet, covering around 15 percent of Earth’s terrestrial surface, 13 percent of national waters and five percent of the open oceans.

The Convention on Biological Diversity’s Aichi Biodiversity Targets state that by 2020, 17 percent of the terrestrial planet and 10 percent of oceans are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well-connected systems of protected areas. We are making good progress on the area target, although the post-2020 target is likely to be higher, with renowned biologist E.O. Wilson proposing as much as 50 percent.

Achieving goals for the quality of management remains a major challenge. Buying land and establishing protected areas do not guarantee long-term conservation. This depends on numerous factors including political will, sustainable finance, capable and motivated staff, community support, law enforcement, and application of conservation measures specific to the biodiversity of the area.

GWC’s protected area management program focuses on helping establish effective management of protected areas in our priority wildlands—including those in Nicaragua, the Philippines and Madagascar. Our approaches are always based around working with local partners to tailor unique solutions to the needs and challenges of the area.

(Top photo by Mike Appleton)

Program Goals

Portland Bight Protected Area of Jamaica. (Photo by Robin Moore)

Global Wildlife Conservation supports the Aichi global target to include 17 percent of the terrestrial planet and 10 percent of oceans in effectively managed areas by 2020. Toward this goal, GWC aims to:

  • Work with our partners to bolster efforts that ensure effective management of protected areas.
  • Help establish effective management and governance of new protected areas.
  • Measure whether the protected areas where we work are doing their job to conserve biodiversity.
  • Build the capacity of organizations and individuals responsible for protected areas to develop, implement and monitor practical, realistic management plans.
  • Help lead a survey to determine how many people work in protected areas around the world—information that nobody has secured to date.
  • Support a global program to ensure that protected area staff and guardians are recognized as professionals, benefitting from professional standards, working conditions, insurance and security.
  • Collaborate with the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas to promote best practice for protected area management.

Quick Facts

# of protected areas


% of Earth's surface protected


% of national waters protected