Indicator Specification

Nationally designated protected areas

Indicator Specification
  Indicator codes: CSI 008 , SEBI 007
Published 17 Dec 2018 Last modified 18 Dec 2020
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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, by terrestrial and marine ecosystems and by country.

Assessment versions

Published (reviewed and quality assured)
  • No published assessments


Justification for indicator selection

Main advantages of the indicator

  • There is international acceptance of the use of the indicator at the global, regional and national scales. The indicator provides information that can be used at different scales.
  • Information on sites that have been designated for conservation purposes is, in theory, readily available for every country. 

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, by terrestrial and marine ecosystems and by country.


Surface area (km2) of nationally designated protected areas.

Number of nationally designated protected areas.




Policy context and targets

Context description

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

Comprehensive data on officially designated protected areas are regularly compiled.

These 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 of protecting fauna, flora, habitats and landscapes (the latter as far as is relevant for the protection of fauna, flora and habitat); Category B, designations based on statutes under sectoral, particularly forestry, legislative and administrative acts providing adequate protection relevant for fauna, flora and habitat conservation; and Category C, designations based on private statutes providing durable protection for fauna, flora or habitats.

It is important to note that, for this indicator, and for any other indicators based on the Common Database on Designated Areas (CDDA;, 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 the IUCN's 2008 Guidelines for applying area management categories (available at:


The aim of Aichi Biodiversity Target 11 is 'that, by 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water, and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes'.

Streamlining European Biodiversity Indicator (SEBI)008 helps to measure Aichi Target 11 at EU level, relying on the Natura 2000 network.

Related policy documents

  • Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, including Aichi Biodiversity Targets
    In decision X/2, the tenth meeting of the Conference of the Parties, held from 18 to 29 October 2010, in Nagoya, Aichi Prefecture, Japan, adopted a revised and updated Strategic Plan for Biodiversity, including the Aichi Biodiversity Targets, for the 2011-2020 period. This Plan provides an overarching framework on biodiversity, not only for the biodiversity-related conventions, but for the entire United Nations system and all other partners engaged in biodiversity management and policy development.

Key policy question

What progress has been made with regard to the national designation of protected areas as a tool for biodiversity conservation?



Methodology for indicator calculation

CDDA reporting is based on the 'linked approach' and re-uses the Inspire protected sites data set. This is done to avoid double reporting for countries implementing the Inspire Directive.

CDDA reporting is divided into two components:
• Type 1 data include the spatial data, defined by Inspire protected sites;
• Type 2 data include the tabular data.

The available CDDA data delivered previously to the EEA are provided in templates based on Eionet's Data Dictionary specifications and the CDDA reporting guidelines. Reporters are asked to review and update the data, providing information on the current situation of the designated areas in their countries. Countries implementing Inspire should use their Inspire protected sites data set for reporting the Type 1 component of the CDDA.

Both Type 1 and Type 2 data files hold mandatory CDDA information.

More information is available in the CDDA reporting guidelines (


IUCN management categories

Ia: strict nature reserve

Category Ia areas are strictly protected areas set aside to protect biodiversity and also possibly geological/geomorphological features, where human visitation, use and impacts are strictly controlled and limited to ensure protection of the conservation values. Such protected areas can serve as indispensable reference areas for scientific research and monitoring.

Ib: wilderness area

Category Ib areas are usually large, unmodified or slightly modified areas, retaining their natural character and influence without permanent or significant human habitation, which are protected and managed so as to preserve their natural condition.

II: national park

Category II areas are large natural or near natural areas set aside to protect large-scale ecological processes, along with the complement of species and ecosystems characteristic of the area, which also provide a foundation for environmentally and culturally compatible spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational and visitor opportunities.

III: natural monument or feature

Category III protected areas are set aside to protect a specific natural monument, which could be a landform, sea mount, submarine cavern, geological feature, such as a cave, or even a living feature such as an ancient grove. They are generally quite small protected areas and often have high visitor value.

IV: habitat/species management area

Category IV protected areas aim to protect particular species or habitats, and their management reflects this priority. Many category IV protected areas will need regular, active interventions to address the requirements of particular species or to maintain habitats, but this is not a requirement of the category.

V: protected landscape/seascape

A category V protected area is an area where the interaction of people and nature over time has produced an area of distinct character with significant ecological, biological, cultural and scenic value, and where safeguarding the integrity of this interaction is vital to protecting and sustaining the area and its associated nature conservation and other values.

VI: protected area with sustainable use of natural resources

Category VI protected areas conserve ecosystems and habitats together with associated cultural values and traditional natural resource management systems. They are generally large, with most of the area in a natural condition, where a proportion is under sustainable natural resource management and where low-level non-industrial use of natural resources compatible with nature conservation is seen as one of the main aims.

Not applicable: the IUCN management categories are not applicable to a specific designation type.

Not assigned: a protected area for which the data provider has chosen not to use the IUCN management categories.

Not reported: the IUCN management category has not been reported.

    Methodology for gap filling

    No methodology for gap filling has been specified.

    Methodology references


    Data specifications

    EEA data references

    Data sources in latest figures



    Methodology uncertainty

    No uncertainty has been specified.

    Data sets uncertainty

    No uncertainty has been specified.

    Rationale uncertainty

    Main disadvantages of the indicator

    The indicator does not describe the quality of management or whether or not 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 to protect biodiversity.


    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.

    General metadata

    Responsibility and ownership

    EEA Contact Info

    Katarzyna Biala


    European Environment Agency (EEA)


    Indicator code
    CSI 008
    SEBI 007
    Version id: 3

    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?)


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