Built-up areas within and around protected areas: Global patterns and 40-year trends

Begoña De La Fuente, Bastian Bertzky, Giacomo Delli, Andrea Mandrici, Michele Conti, Aneta J. Florczyk, Sergio Freire, Marcello Schiavina, Lucy Bastin, Grégoire Dubois

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Protected areas (PAs) are a key strategy in global efforts to conserve biodiversity and ecosystem services that are critical for human well-being. Most PAs have some built-up structures within their boundaries or in surrounding areas, ranging from individual buildings to villages, towns and cities. These structures, and the associated human activities, can exert direct and indirect pressures on PAs. Here we present the first global analysis of current patterns and observed long-term trends in built-up areas within terrestrial PAs and their immediate surroundings. We calculate for each PA larger than 5 km2 and for its 10-km unprotected buffer zone the percentage of land area covered by built-up areas in 1975, 1990, 2000 and 2014. We find that globally built-up areas cover only 0.12% of PA extent and a much higher 2.71% of the unprotected buffers as of 2014, compared to 0.6% of all land (protected or unprotected). Built-up extent in and around PAs is highest in Europe and Asia, and lowest in Africa and Oceania. Built-up area percentage is higher in coastal and small PAs, and lower in older PAs and in PAs with stricter management categories. From 1975 to 2014, the increase in built-up area was 23 times larger in the 10-km unprotected buffers than within PAs. Our findings show that the development of built-up structures remains limited within the boundaries of PAs but highlight the need to carefully manage the considerable pressure that PAs face from their immediate surroundings.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere01291
JournalGlobal Ecology and Conservation
Early online date28 Sept 2020
Publication statusPublished - 1 Dec 2020

Bibliographical note

©2020 The Authors. Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CCBY-NC-ND license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/4.0/)


  • Protected areas
  • Urbanization
  • Built-up areas
  • Human settlements
  • Biodiversity conservation
  • Human pressure


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