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A new way to measure the world’s protected area coverage

Barr, L.M., Pressey, R.L., Fuller, R.A., Segan, D.B., McDonald-Madden, E. & Possingham, H.P. 2011. A new way to measure the world’s protected area coverage. PLoS ONE, 9, e24707.

Protected areas are effective at stopping biodiversity loss, but their placement is constrained by the needs of people. Consequently protected areas are often biased toward areas that are unattractive for other human uses. Current reporting metrics that emphasise the total area protected do not account for this bias. To address this problem we propose that the distribution of protected areas be evaluated with an economic metric used to quantify inequality in income— the Gini coefficient. Using a modified version of this measure we discover that 73% of countries have inequitably protected their biodiversity and that common measures of protected area coverage do not adequately reveal this bias. Used in combination with total percentage protection, the Gini coefficient will improve the effectiveness of reporting on the growth of protected area coverage, paving the way for better representation of the world’s biodiversity.

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