Nationally designated protected areas

Indicator Specification
Indicator codes: SEBI 007
Created 26 Feb 2007 Published 21 May 2010 Last modified 23 Oct 2015, 04:32 PM
The indicator illustrates the rate of growth in the number and total area of nationally protected areas over time. The indicator can be disaggregated by IUCN category, biogeographic region and country.

Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)


Justification for indicator selection


  • There is international acceptance of the indicator at a global, regional and national scale. The indicator provides information and can be used at different scales.
  • Information on sites that have been designated for conservation purposes is, in theory, readily available in every country. For 38 countries participating in the EEA work programme a reporting obligation on designated areas exists.

Scientific references

  • No rationale references available

Indicator definition

The indicator illustrates the rate of growth in the number and total area of nationally protected areas over time. The indicator can be disaggregated by IUCN category, biogeographic region and country.


Area (km2) of nationally designated protected areas



Policy context and targets

Context description

Establishment of protected areas is a direct response to concerns over biodiversity loss, so an indicator in protected area coverage is a valuable indication of commitment to conserving biodiversity and reducing loss at a range of levels.

Comprehensive data on officially designated protected areas are regularly compiled.
The data include information on all nationally designated sites, ranging from national parks to forest reserves and from strict nature reserves to resource reserves. When reporting on protected areas, countries have been asked to cluster the different designation-types according to three main categories: Category A: Designation types used with the intention to protect fauna, flora, habitats and landscapes (the latter as far as relevant for fauna, flora and for habitat protection). Category B: Statutes under sectoral, particularly forestry, legislative and administrative acts providing an adequate protection relevant for fauna, flora and habitat conservation. Category C: Private statute providing durable protection for fauna, flora or habitats.

It is important to note for this indicator, and for any other indicators based on the Common Database on Designated Areas (, that information on national protection is based not on protected areas sensu stricto but on designated areas, and that a number of included sites may not meet internationally adopted definitions of protected areas (see IUCN 2008 Guidelines for applying Area Management Categories at and the CBD at

For forest protected areas, the final report of the COST E27 project contains quantitative comparisons of national data according the different definitions of forest protection categories (IUCN, MCPFE and EEA) (Frank et al. 2007).

Relation of the indicator to the focal area

This indicator demonstrates the change over time in one form of protection afforded to components of biodiversity.


No targets have been specified

Related policy documents

No related policy documents have been specified

Key policy question

What is the progress with the national designation of protected areas as a tool for biodiversity conservation?


Methodology for indicator calculation

Information is collected from national authorities according to a shared agreement between EEA and UNEP-WCMC. EEA is responsible for data collection from EEA member and collaborating countries (38), while UNEP-WCMC is responsible for collection of data from other European countries (15). Methodology and process are defined in

Currently, the cumulative area of nationally designated areas over time in European countries for the period XXXX-YYYY is calculated in km2 by adding the absolute surface areas reported by countries. This leads to double counting in cases where some protected areas are included in a bigger one (for example two small nature reserves in a big national park). In the future, the calculation of the surface area should be done using the following next steps:

  • Spatial data on sites with known designation year and boundaries processed in GIS systems using an equal area projection (not yet available for all sites).
  • Data on sites with no boundary data available, but with location data (latitude/longitude), are recorded in the CDDA Proportional polygons (circles with the area equal to officially designated protected area size and centered at a known site location) are generated in an equal area projection using GIS.
  • Sample formula applied (syntaxes may vary depending of the GIS applied):Circle.
    Make([X-coord]@[Y-coord], (([Area_km2] * 1000/(Number.GetPi))^0.5)).as polygon. Both sets of polygons (based on actual boundary data and proportional circles) are overlaid to produce a single coverage statistic.
  • Sites area totals are to be estimated yearly with overlapping areas analysed in a manner to ensure that they are counted only once.

Methodology for gap filling

No methodology for gap filling has been specified. Probably this info has been added together with indicator calculation.

Methodology references

Data specifications

EEA data references

  • No datasets have been specified here.

Data sources in latest figures


Methodology uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Data sets uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified

Rationale uncertainty


The indicator does not describe the quality of management or whether the areas are protected from incompatible uses. The indicator needs to be complemented by information on management effectiveness or funding, or other elements that would indicate the potential of the designated area in protecting biodiversity.

The spatial data and designation date data sets are not complete. A logistical problem is that information is generally held by a range of different institutions, both governmental and non-governmental and simultaneous delivery of information on year, size, boundary or at least approximate (latitude/longitude) location of protected areas requires constant efforts for information flow (currently maintained by the EEA through its ETC/BD).


Initially, eight possible indicators were proposed under the Headline Indicator:

1. Trends in national establishment of protected areas

2. Trends in proposals for protected sites under the EU Habitats Directive

3. Trends in nomination of wetlands of international importance (Ramsar sites)

4. Coverage of Important Bird Areas by protected areas

5. EU Habitats Directive: sufficiency of Member State proposals for protected sites

6. Indicator on infra-structural support for designated areas in Europe

7. Status of species and habitats in protected sites under the EU Habitats Directive

8. Indicator on private protected areas in Europe

Eventually, two indicators are being proposed (Nationally designated protected areas and Sites designated sites under the EU Habitats and Birds Directives (a combination of 2 and 5 above)). The other indicators proposed were either not ready (e.g. 6 and 8), not nationally recognised (e.g. 4) or are being covered under other headline indicators (e.g. 7).

Further work

Short term work

Work specified here requires to be completed within 1 year from now.

Long term work

Work specified here will require more than 1 year (from now) to be completed.

Work description

SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVEMENT The quality of national reporting should be analysed and assessed in respect to the completeness of spatial boundary data and comprehensive documentation of designation dates, IUCN category application, etc. (e.g. currently for about 9 000 of 85 000 European sites the designation year was not reported). Updates should be made available and processed on a regular basis for incorporation into CDDA and WDPA to allow for regular updates of the indicator. Ways need to be found to improve dataflow, and this is being discussed by UNEP‑WCMC and EEA. Methodological support and capacity building might be needed to bring all reporting countries to a comparable level of accuracy in source data delivery. It would be interesting to distinguish between marine and terrestrial areas, and to identify protected areas selected by states to observe international conventions and agreements. The indicator gives a figure with cumulative area of protected areas. It is based on the YEAR field from the CDDA. The definition of YEAR is 'the year the site was first time designated'. Since protected areas are often revised to update the provisions, expand the protected area etc., this practice will overestimate the amount of protected area in past time — i.e. skew the cumulative curve to the left. The magnitude of this should be assessed, and if necessary the method for producing the indicator needs to be adjusted.

Resource needs

No resource needs have been specified


Not started


2099/01/01 00:00:00 GMT+1

General metadata

Responsibility and ownership

EEA Contact Info

Katarzyna Biala


European Environment Agency (EEA)


Indicator code
SEBI 007
Version id: 1

Frequency of updates

Updates are scheduled once per year


DPSIR: Response
Typology: Descriptive indicator (Type A - What is happening to the environment and to humans?)
European Environment Agency (EEA)
Kongens Nytorv 6
1050 Copenhagen K
Phone: +45 3336 7100