Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 22, Issue 4, pp 1033–1047 | Cite as

The performance of the global protected area system in capturing vertebrate geographic ranges

  • Lisette Cantú-Salazar
  • C. David L. Orme
  • Pamela C. Rasmussen
  • Tim M. Blackburn
  • Kevin J. Gaston
Original Paper


Given the heavy reliance placed on and investment in protected areas for biological conservation, there has been much debate as to how effective these are in representing biodiversity features within their boundaries. The majority of studies addressing this issue have been conducted on a regional or national basis, precluding a broad picture of patterns of representation at the species level. We present a global assessment of the representation of the terrestrial geographic ranges of complete taxonomic groups: all known extant amphibians, birds and mammals (20,736 species) within the current global system of protected areas. We conclude that it is necessary substantially to improve the levels of coverage of the geographic ranges of the majority of species, even the widespread ones. This is particularly true for rare species, which might be assumed to be foci for protected area systems. To improve on the low levels of coverage of vertebrate ranges attained by the existing areas, key regions should be targeted, but heavy reliance will also have to be placed on approaches to sustaining populations in the wider, unprotected landscape.


Reserves Effectiveness Persistence Representation Geographic ranges Vertebrates 

Supplementary material

10531_2013_467_MOESM1_ESM.doc (14 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 14376 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Lisette Cantú-Salazar
    • 1
    • 2
  • C. David L. Orme
    • 3
  • Pamela C. Rasmussen
    • 4
  • Tim M. Blackburn
    • 5
    • 7
  • Kevin J. Gaston
    • 6
  1. 1.Biodiversity & Macroecology Group, Department of Animal and Plant SciencesUniversity of SheffieldSheffieldUK
  2. 2.Department of Environment and Agro-biotechnologiesPublic Research Centre – Gabriel LippmannBelvauxLuxembourg
  3. 3.Division of BiologyImperial College LondonBerkshireUK
  4. 4.Department of ZoologyMichigan State University MuseumEast LansingUSA
  5. 5.Institute of ZoologyZSLLondonUK
  6. 6.Environment and Sustainability InstituteUniversity of ExeterPenrynUK
  7. 7.Distinguished Scientist Fellowship ProgramKing Saud UniversityRiyadhSaudi Arabia

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