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How much land is needed to safeguard biodiversity?

Image: AlainAudet, Autumn landscape, Pixabay, Pixabay Licence

To safeguard biodiversity, 44% of the global land area needs to be covered by conservation measures such as protected areas or land use policies, finds this paper. The proportion of land that must be conserved varies by country, with high values in countries such as Canada (84%, because of its extensive intact ecosystems), and Costa Rica (86%, because it hosts many species). On average, the calculated values show that more land should be conserved in developed economies (55%) than in developing economies (30%), partly due to large ecologically intact areas of Canada and Australia. The authors stress that any conservation policies must respect the rights of people living in the affected areas.


Ambitious conservation efforts are needed to stop the global biodiversity crisis. In this study, we estimate the minimum land area to secure important biodiversity areas, ecologically intact areas, and optimal locations for representation of species ranges and ecoregions. We discover that at least 64 million square kilometers (44% of terrestrial area) would require conservation attention (ranging from protected areas to land-use policies) to meet this goal. More than 1.8 billion people live on these lands, so responses that promote autonomy, self-determination, equity, and sustainable management for safeguarding biodiversity are essential. Spatially explicit land-use scenarios suggest that 1.3 million square kilometers of this land is at risk of being converted for intensive human land uses by 2030, which requires immediate attention. However, a sevenfold difference exists between the amount of habitat converted in optimistic and pessimistic land-use scenarios, highlighting an opportunity to avert this crisis. Appropriate targets in the Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework to encourage conservation of the identified land would contribute substantially to safeguarding biodiversity.



Allan, J.R., Possingham, H.P., Atkinson, S.C., Waldron, A., Di Marco, M., Adams, V.M., Butchart, S.H., Kissling, W.D., Worsdell, T., Gibbon, G., Kumar, K., Mehta, P., Maron, M., Williams, B. A., Jones, K. R., Wintle, B. A., Reside, A. E. and Watson, J. E. M. (2022). The minimum land area requiring conservation attention to safeguard biodiversity. Science, 376(6597), pp.1094-1101.

Read the full paper here. See also the TABLE explainer What is the land sparing-sharing continuum?

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