Research ArticleSCIENCE POLICY

A “Global Safety Net” to reverse biodiversity loss and stabilize Earth’s climate

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Science Advances  04 Sep 2020:
Vol. 6, no. 36, eabb2824
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abb2824
  • Fig. 1 Areas of the terrestrial realm where increased conservation action is needed to protect biodiversity and store carbon.

    Numbers in parentheses show the percentage of total land area of Earth contributed by each set of layers. Unprotected habitats drawn from the 11 biodiversity data layers underpinning the Global Safety Net augment the current 15.1% protected with an additional 30.6% required to safeguard biodiversity. Additional CSAs add a further 4.7% of the terrestrial realm. Also shown are the wildlife and climate corridors to connect intact habitats (yellow lines). Data are available for interactive viewing at www.globalsafetynet.app.

  • Fig. 2 Interdependence of carbon and biodiversity.

    Currently unprotected high-carbon areas with median total carbon >215 MT/ha overlap extensively (92.0%) with areas selected under target 1, highlighting the importance of these lands for biodiversity conservation and climate stabilization. Other areas important for biodiversity but of lower carbon value, i.e., <215 MT/ha, are also shown. Additional CSAs, including tier 1 and tier 2 CSAs, are also selected to bridge the gap for adequate carbon storage beyond areas identified in target 1.

  • Fig. 3 The Global Safety Net made more visible in a close-up of five biogeographic realms.

    Shown here are Neotropic (A), Nearctic (B), Afrotropic (C), and Palearctic and Indo-Malayan (D) (adjacent realms partly included). Existing protected areas are expanded to account for additional lands requiring increased conservation attention (target 1), augmented by additional CSAs (target 2), and connected by potential wildlife and climate corridors (target 3). Numbers in parentheses show the percentage of total land area of Earth contributed by each set of layers. To explore the component terrestrial layers of the Global Safety Net, please visit www.globalsafetynet.app. Indigenous lands are not shown but overlap extensively with proposed areas for increased conservation attention (see table S2 for ecoregions depicted in Fig. 3).

  • Table 1 Elements of the Global Safety Net to expand protection of terrestrial biodiversity and stabilize climate beyond the current extent of protected areas and a scoping exercise to enhance connectivity.

    Dataset nameAreaTotal land surfaceEst. total carbon (24)Overlap with mapped indigenous lands (26)
    (km2)(%)(megaton)(km2)(%)
      Total land surface*134,126,000100.002,923,02837,900,30828
      Global terrestrial
    protected areas
    20,210,87815.07484,9298,032,07840
    Unique contribution of currently unprotected lands
    Target 1. Conserving the diversity and abundance of life on Earth (terrestrial)
    Cluster 1: Species
    rarity
    3,047,7872.2775,638526,73917
    Cluster 2: Distinct species
    assemblages
    8,072,3086.02239,9783,235,85840
    Cluster 3: Rare
    phenomena
    8,414,1716.27442,6254,092,87349
    Cluster 4: Intactness21,515,36416.04602,1577,157,10633
    Subtotal41,049,63030.611,360,39915,042,32737
    Target 2. Enhancing carbon drawdown and storage
    Tier 1 climate
    stabilization areas§
    2,337,2361.7482,878309,89913
    Tier 2 climate
    stabilization areas||
    3,946,5812.9448,122549,33514
    Subtotal6,283,8264.69131,000859,23414
    Total area to achieve
    targets 1 and 2
    47,333,45735.291,420,49915,871,80934
    Total area for greater
    conservation attention
    within the Global
    Safety Net (including
    current protected areas
    (14))
    67,544,33550.361,905,42823,903,88735
    Target 3. Wildlife and climate corridors: A scoping exercise
    Area required if targets 1
    and 2 achieved
    3,584,614
    Area required if targets 1
    and 2 are not achieved
    (existing protected
    areas only)
    5,705,206

    *On the basis of Earth’s total terrestrial area excluding Antarctica.

    †Subtracts overlap with previous datasets.

    ‡All layers in cluster 1, except rare plant species, include a 1-km buffer around each site.

    §Includes ecoregions with median total carbon density above 215 MT/ha.

    ||Includes ecoregions with median total carbon density between 50 to 215 MT/ha.

    ¶On the basis of corridor width of 2.5 km.

    • Table 2 Fifty ecoregions that contribute most to enhancing biodiversity protection and carbon storage through the addition of currently unprotected lands.

      Ecoregion nameIDRealmPotential contribution of
      unprotected lands
      Median total
      carbon density
      (MT/ha)
      Est. total
      carbon
      (megatons)
      Overlap with mapped
      indigenous lands
      (km2)(% of land
      surface)
      (km2)(%
      overlap)
      Target 1: Conserving the diversity and abundance of life on Earth (terrestrial)
      Cluster 1: Species rarity3,047,7872.2775,638526,73917
        Sahelian Acacia Savanna53Afrotropic64,7940.053220712,87320
        Central Range Papuan
      Montane Rain Forests
      139Australasia49,7940.046613,2911,0072
        Sulawesi Montane Rain
      Forests
      157Australasia45,0210.035202,34131,67470
        Madagascar Humid Forests17Afrotropic41,7080.033061,2760
        Mindanao-Eastern Visayas
      Rain Forests
      247Indomalayan41,4920.033151,3076,89017
        Registan-North Pakistan
      Sandy Desert
      838Palearctic41,4500.0322911320
        Southern Anatolian
      Montane Conifer and
      Deciduous Forests
      804Palearctic40,4820.031516110
        Sulawesi Lowland Rain
      Forests
      156Australasia38,5420.033891,49917,01644
        Uruguayan Savanna574Neotropic36,7280.0316259510
        Northwest Andean
      Montane Forests
      486Neotropic36,1370.035061,8294,72713
        Taimyr-Central Siberian
      Tundra
      781Palearctic35,9320.035491,97329,66083
        Eastern Mediterranean
      Conifer-Broadleaf Forests
      791Palearctic33,9900.031033502201
        Northeast Siberian Taiga714Palearctic32,5810.025041,6425022
        Humid Chaco571Neotropic31,4790.021966174,57215
        Cerrado567Neotropic30,6020.021283922501
        Eastern Cordillera Real
      Montane Forests
      460Neotropic30,1330.024701,4167,50925
        Luzon Rain Forests241Indomalayan29,6300.022577613,09910
        Dry Chaco569Neotropic29,2240.021514412,89610
        Somali Acacia-
      Commiphora Bushlands
      and Thickets
      55Afrotropic29,1070.0210430312,05541
        Napo Moist Forests483Neotropic28,2750.024981,40816,29558
        Albertine Rift Montane
      Forests
      1Afrotropic27,5590.022867881,6976
        Central Asian Northern
      Desert
      817Palearctic27,4360.02711950
        Kazakh Steppe732Palearctic27,0400.022466650
        Central Bushveld38Afrotropic25,5790.02691760
        Taklimakan Desert843Palearctic25,1650.026315911,54946
      Subtotal of top 25 ecoregions879,8810.6624,335164,62319
      Cluster 2: Distinct species assemblages8,072,3086.02239,9783,235,85840
        Great Sandy-Tanami Desert210Australasia485,0000.36442,134404,28783
        Southwest Amazon Moist
      Forests
      505Neotropic390,5910.2929911,679100,61326
        Northeast Congolian
      Lowland Forests
      24Afrotropic335,6440.252709,06246,10214
        Carpentaria Tropical
      Savanna
      184Australasia302,4700.23722,178154,44651
        Central Congolian Lowland
      Forests
      3Afrotropic290,1870.222868,299112,08739
        Northwest Congolian
      Lowland Forests
      26Afrotropic280,5510.213048,52981,55029
        Guianan Lowland Moist
      Forests
      465Neotropic270,4020.203118,41065,00224
        Borneo Lowland Rain
      Forests
      219Indomalayan246,8760.1858814,516179,86673
        Madeira-Tapajós Moist Forests476Neotropic237,6410.182736,48821,8619
        Kimberly Tropical Savanna186Australasia219,7800.16771,692156,68671
      Subtotal of top 10 ecoregions3,059,1462.2872,9871,322,50143
      Clusters 3 and 4: Rare phenomena and intactness29,929,53522.311,044,78211,249,97938
        East Siberian Taiga710Palearctic3,191,0092.38432137,8512,296,93472
        West Siberian Taiga720Palearctic1,101,6260.82955105,205852,96177
        Scandinavian and Russian
      Taiga
      717Palearctic907,0790.6846442,088188,61121
        Northeast Siberian Taiga714Palearctic893,3870.6750445,027635,72471
        North Saharan Xeric Steppe
      and Woodland
      833Palearctic876,3100.65171,490140,66516
        Canadian Middle Arctic
      Tundra
      414Nearctic811,9540.6155945,388176,02322
        South Sahara Desert842Palearctic772,7010.5811850396,38051
        Taimyr-Central Siberian
      Tundra
      781Palearctic742,4220.5554940,759557,93475
        Eastern Canadian Shield
      Taiga
      374Nearctic712,1000.5338627,4871,0070
        Canadian Low Arctic Tundra413Nearctic683,2790.5156338,469162,75824
      Subtotal of top 10 ecoregions10,691,8677.97484,61551
      Target 2: Enhancing carbon drawdown and storage
      Tier 1 climate stabilization areas2,342,9891.7883,087311,33013
        Sarmatic Mixed forests679Palearctic252,4820.1942210,6550
        Kazakh Steppe732Palearctic178,3480.132464,3870
        West Siberian Taiga720Palearctic105,4670.0895510,07256,33353
        Tian Shan Montane Steppe
      and Meadows
      767Palearctic103,5090.082292,37030,86630
        New England-Acadian
      Forests
      338Nearctic99,8980.083453,4464450
      Subtotal of top 5 ecoregions739,7040.5531,22787,64312
    • Table 3 Top countries that contribute most to enhancing biodiversity protection through the addition of currently unprotected lands (target 1).

      Country namePotential contribution of unprotected landsOverlap with mapped indigenous lands
      (km2)(% of land surface)(km2)(% overlap)
      Cluster 1: Species rarity3,047,7872.27526,73917
        Russia209,3030.1685,91241
        Indonesia167,7550.1381,53449
        Turkey154,6750.120
        China128,9630.1036,68628
        Argentina119,7320.0932,96128
        Brazil114,0980.099111
        Philippines107,0950.0819,00818
        Kazakhstan104,0340.080
        Australia99,9550.0741,08041
        Papua New Guinea99,4680.070
      Subtotal of top 10 countries1,305,0780.97298,09323
      Cluster 2: Distinct species
      assemblages
      8,072,3086.023,235,85840
        Australia1,580,4571.181,033,31965
        Brazil1,025,3120.7642,3504
        Indonesia810,8720.60524,92965
        Democratic Republic of the Congo726,8430.54188,66526
        Colombia542,7620.40257,34447
        Peru449,4080.34169,89638
        Papua New Guinea266,2640.2091,57734
        China264,6750.20100
        Bolivia229,5610.1763,64228
        Guyana154,6160.1221,53914
      Subtotal of top 10 countries6,050,7704.512,393,27340
      Clusters 3 and 4: Rare
      phenomena and intactness
      29,929,53522.3111,249,97938
        Russia9,715,5877.246,703,65969
        Canada6,711,8005.00557,0558
        Australia2,143,7451.601,149,49954
        United States of America2,116,0961.58240,14111
        China1,191,6230.89707,84759
        Saudi Arabia858,0890.642810
        Algeria715,2690.53260,12836
        Libya660,6830.4987,75313
        Argentina568,7780.42128,44923
        Brazil512,3840.3810,9572
      Subtotal of top 10 countries25,194,05518.789,845,76739

    Supplementary Materials

    • Supplementary Materials

      A “Global Safety Net” to reverse biodiversity loss and stabilize Earth’s climate

      E. Dinerstein, A. R. Joshi, C. Vynne, A. T. L. Lee, F. Pharand-Deschênes, M. França, S. Fernando, T. Birch, K. Burkart, G. P. Asner, D. Olson

      Download Supplement

      The PDF file includes:

      • Legends for tables S1 and S2
      • Fig. S1
      • Table S1

      Other Supplementary Material for this manuscript includes the following:

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