Marie-Morgane Rouyer

My long-life passion for the natural world and particularly the oceans has led me to study ecology and engage with biodiversity conservation from the local to the continental scale, in various places in the world. Interested in the applied side of conservation, I graduated from an international master’s in applied ecology during which I worked on identifying critical foraging sites for Antarctic penguins and evaluating how well these sites would be covered by an envisioned network of marine protected areas. This project at the science-policy interface enhanced my desire to better understand the drivers of efficient conservation to improve policies, a topic I will develop in my project looking at the effectiveness of protected areas at conserving biodiversity in the marine world.

Research project: The effectiveness of protected areas at conserving biodiversity

Biodiversity is declining across the world, with  thousands of species at risk of extinction and major declines in animal populations. With habitat loss and degradation being the most important pressure to biodiversity, protected areas are widely recognised as the most important conservation tool (Watson et al. 2014). They currently cover about 14.9% of the global land surface and 7.3% of the oceans (UNEP-WCMC et al. 2018), and the world’s governments have committed to increase this even further: in 2010, the signatories to the Convention on Biological Diversity endorsed the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020, including Aichi Target 11 calling for an expansion of the protected area coverage to at least 17% of terrestrial areas and 10% of marine areas by 2020, focusing on well-connected, effectively and equitably managed, and ecologically representative areas of particular importance for biodiversity.

Source: Protected Planet Report 2018.

Whereas protected area coverage has been increasing steadily in the past decades, it is not necessarily doing so strategically to protect those areas that are the most important to ensure biodiversity persistence (Venter et al. 2018). Indeed, only 21% of areas identified as Key Biodiversity Areas – i.e., sites contributing significantly to the global persistence of biodiversity – are fully protected, whereas 35% have no protection at all (UNEP-WCMC et al. 2018). Furthermore, there is wide variation in the extent to which protected areas, once established, are effective at retaining the biodiversity within their boundaries, with many of them holding declining populations (Geldmann et al. 2018) and lacking adequate resources in terms of staffing and budget (Coad et al. 2019).

This project will investigate the effectiveness of Protected Areas as biodiversity conservation tools, particularly those covering Key Biodiversity Areas, and the extent to which they ensure the long-term persistence of the biodiversity within their boundaries. The research will have a large-scale scope (continental to global). In order to take advantage of the best existing datasets on the spatial distribution of species, the project will focus on vertebrate species, particularly birds.

It is expected that this project will contribute to more accurate measures of the past impact and future value of protected areas, guiding and inform informing priorities for policy-making.

Related references
  • Coad, L., Watson, J.E., Geldmann, J., Burgess, N.D., Leverington, F., Hockings, M., Knights, K. & Di Marco, M. (2019). Widespread shortfalls in protected area resourcing undermine efforts to conserve biodiversity. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 17, 259–264.
  • Geldmann, J., Coad, L., Barnes, M.D., Craigie, I.D., Woodley, S., Balmford, A., Brooks, T.M., Hockings, M., Knights, K., Mascia, M.B., McRae, L. & Burgess, N.D. (2018). A global analysis of management capacity and ecological outcomes in terrestrial protected areas. Conservation Letters, 11, e12434.
  • UNEP-WCMC, IUCN & NGS. (2018). Protected Planet Report 2018. Cambridge UK, Gland, Switzerland, and Washington, D.C., USA.
  • Venter, O., Magrach, A., Outram, N., Klein, C.J., Possingham, H.P., Marco, M.D. & Watson, J.E.M. (2018). Bias in protected-area location and its effects on long-term aspirations of biodiversity conventions. Conservation Biology, 32, 127–134.
  • Watson, J.E.M., Dudley, N., Segan, D.B. & Hockings, M. (2014). The performance and potential of protected areas. Nature, 515, 67–73.

Academic Host

Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique
Montpellier, France
Ana Rodrigues


BirdLife International
Cambridge, UK
Maria Dias
Paul F. Donald
Stu Butchart
UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre
Cambridge, UK
Nina Bhola
Elise Belle