Irreplaceable and outstanding

A new scientific study by an international team of scientists has identified the most irreplaceable places on the planet when it comes to protecting biodiversity and preventing extinctions of the world's mammals, birds and amphibians. This analysis provides practical advice for improving the effectiveness of protected areas in conserving global biodiversity.

The Wet Tropics of Queensland World Heritage Area ranked sixth overall in global irreplaceability on the basis of all species and eighth on the basis of threatened species. With respect to World Heritage properties, the Wet Tropics ranked as the second most irreplaceable natural World Heritage site. The study stated that irreplaceability was an important aspect of the Outstanding Universal Value of World Heritage properties.

The study, published in the 15 November 2013 edition of the international journal Science, calculates the 'irreplaceability' of individual protected areas, based on data on 173,000 terrestrial protected areas and assessments of 21,500 species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species in order to assign each protected area a species-based irreplaceability score. The score is based on the fraction of each species’ global range overlapping the boundaries of each protected area. Two species irreplaceability scores were calculated for each protected area, one based on all species in the assessed groups, the other one based only on the globally threatened species in these groups.

Seventy-eight sites (comprising 137 protected areas in 34 countries) have been identified as exceptionally irreplaceable. Together, they harbour the majority of the populations of more than 600 bird, amphibian, and mammal species, half of which are globally threatened. This study highlights species for which each area has particularly high global conservation significance (this information is available here) which can be used to assist in informing management priorities in individual protected areas.

A comprehensive analysis of the data is available in the IUCN publication Terrestrial Biodiversity and the World Heritage List: Identifying broad gaps and potential candidate sites for inclusion in the natural World Heritage network. Table 4.2 in this report lists the most irreplaceable natural and mixed World Heritage sites currently included on the World Heritage List. In the table below, sites are sorted by irreplaceability score for all species. The irreplaceability rank indicates the relative importance of a site (based on its irreplaceability score) among the 173,461 protected areas analysed. The table shows all natural and mixed World Heritage sites that are among the 10 most irreplaceable protected areas for all species or all threatened species analysed. As depicted in this table, the Wet Tropics ranked as the second most irreplaceable natural World Heritage site based on this methodology.

 

 

Irreplaceability

score

Irreplaceability

rank amongst all

protected areas

State Party

World Heritage Site

World Heritage

criteria

WDPA area

(km2)

All

species

Threatened

species

All

species

Threatened

species

 

Venezuela

 

 

Canaima National Park

 

(vii)(viii)(ix)(x)

 

29,019

 

41.16

 

8.33

 

3

 

16

Australia

 

Wet Tropics of Queensland

(vii)(viii)(ix)(x)

8,988

32.49

10.51

6

8

Panama;

Costa Rica

Talamanca Range-La Amistad Reserves / La Amistad National Park

(vii)(viii)(ix)(x)

4,073

29.21

8.93

7

14

Ecuador

 

Galapagos Islands

(vii)(viii)(ix)(x)

146,679

24.39

11.02

15

5

India

 

Western Ghats

(ix)(x)

8,165

24.03

14.58

17

2

Madagascar

 

Rainforests of the Atsinanana

(ix)(x)

4,811

20.18

10.58

20

7

Mexico

Islands and Protected Areas of the Gulf of California

 

(vii)(ix)(x)

22,834

13.17

12.04

28

4

 

This study builds on the work of a large network of experts who have collected and analysed data for the IUCN Red List on Threatened Species and for the World Database on Protected Areas. It is the result of an international collaboration between the Center for Functional and Evolutionary Ecology, the IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) through its Species Survival Commission and its World Commission on Protected Areas, the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) and BirdLife International.

Irreplaceable and outstanding

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