Areas of global importance for conserving terrestrial biodiversity, carbon and water

Martin Jung, Andy Arnell, Xavier de Lamo, Shaenandhoa García-Rangel, Matthew Lewis, Jennifer Mark, Cory Merow, Lera Miles, Ian Ondo, Samuel Pironon, Corinna Ravilious, Malin Rivers, Dmitry Schepaschenko, Oliver Tallowin, Arnout van Soesbergen, Rafaël Govaerts, Bradley L. Boyle, Brian J. Enquist, Xiao Feng, Rachael GallagherBrian Maitner, Shai Meiri, Mark Mulligan, Gali Ofer, Uri Roll, Jeffrey O. Hanson, Walter Jetz, Moreno Di Marco, Jennifer McGowan, D. Scott Rinnan, Jeffrey D. Sachs, Myroslava Lesiv, Vanessa M. Adams, Samuel C. Andrew, Joseph R. Burger, Lee Hannah, Pablo A. Marquet, James K. McCarthy, Naia Morueta-Holme, Erica A. Newman, Daniel S. Park, Patrick R. Roehrdanz, Jens Christian Svenning, Cyrille Violle, Jan J. Wieringa, Graham Wynne, Steffen Fritz, Bernardo B.N. Strassburg, Michael Obersteiner, Valerie Kapos, Neil Burgess, Guido Schmidt-Traub, Piero Visconti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

56 Scopus citations


To meet the ambitious objectives of biodiversity and climate conventions, the international community requires clarity on how these objectives can be operationalized spatially and how multiple targets can be pursued concurrently. To support goal setting and the implementation of international strategies and action plans, spatial guidance is needed to identify which land areas have the potential to generate the greatest synergies between conserving biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people. Here we present results from a joint optimization that minimizes the number of threatened species, maximizes carbon retention and water quality regulation, and ranks terrestrial conservation priorities globally. We found that selecting the top-ranked 30% and 50% of terrestrial land area would conserve respectively 60.7% and 85.3% of the estimated total carbon stock and 66% and 89.8% of all clean water, in addition to meeting conservation targets for 57.9% and 79% of all species considered. Our data and prioritization further suggest that adequately conserving all species considered (vertebrates and plants) would require giving conservation attention to ~70% of the terrestrial land surface. If priority was given to biodiversity only, managing 30% of optimally located land area for conservation may be sufficient to meet conservation targets for 81.3% of the terrestrial plant and vertebrate species considered. Our results provide a global assessment of where land could be optimally managed for conservation. We discuss how such a spatial prioritization framework can support the implementation of the biodiversity and climate conventions.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1499-1509
Number of pages11
JournalNature Ecology and Evolution
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work was conducted by the Nature Map consortium. We thank R. Corlett and T. Brooks, who provided feedback on an earlier version of the manuscript. We further thank T. Hengl (OpenLandMap) for his advice on the soil organic carbon analysis. This study has benefited from a number of data providers and networks. We explicitly acknowledge all data providers in a separate Extended Acknowledgements owing to their length (Supplementary Information). The Nature Map project acknowledges funding from Norway’s International Climate and Forest Initiative (NICFI). The collection of the plant data used in this analysis has benefited from funding in the form of GEF grant no. 5810-SPARC, ‘Spatial Planning for Area Conservation in Response to Climate Change’. C.M. acknowledges funding from NSF (National Science Foundation) grant no. DBI‐1913673. R. Gallagher was supported by Australian Research Council DECRA Fellowship no. DE170100208. E.A.N. and X.F. were funded by the Bridging Biodiversity and Conservation Science Program of the University of Arizona. N.M.-H. was supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the Marie Sklodowska-Curie grant no. 746334. M.D.M. acknowledges support from the MIUR Rita Levi Montalcini programme. J.-C.S. considers this work a contribution to his VILLUM Investigator project, ‘Biodiversity Dynamics in a Changing World’, funded by VILLUM FONDEN (grant no. 16549), and his Independent Research Fund Denmark— Natural Sciences project, TREECHANGE (grant no. 6108-00078B). The views expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Ecology


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