Joint Research Centre - European Commission

The European Commission's in-house science service
European Commission

Protected areas are a vital part of mankind’s attempts to preserve the diversity of life

Protected areas are a vital part of mankind’s attempts to preserve the diversity of life on earth.© Flavio Takemoto (flaivoloka) / stock.xchng

JRC sets up a digital observatory to monitor protected areas


The JRC has developed a digital observatory to monitor protected areas, which are set up to counteract biodiversity loss. In October 2010, the United Nation's Convention on Biological Diversity conference of the parties in Nagoya set stringent new targets to be reached by 2020. At least 17% of terrestrial and inland water and 10% of coastal and marine areas have to be protected. In support to these initiatives, the JRC and its partners have developed a Digital Observatory for Protected Areas (DOPA), an information system aiming to provide accurate maps, environment indicators and alerts on protected ecosystems. It is facilitating the preservation of life diversity in the planet's marine and terrestrial protected areas.

In DOPA, data on protected areas, species distributions and socio-economic indicators are combined with the JRC's remote sensing information in order to generate global environmental indicators, maps and alerts. The information combined in DOPA will help decision-makers to define policies and take concrete actions in halting biodiversity loss and restore degraded ecosystems at a time the world's population is about to reach 7 billion.

DOPA screenshot

DOPA screenshot showing the variability in species of primates (click to enlarge).© EU 2011

DOPA enables prioritizing and supports decision-making in fund allocation processes. DOPA's modelling capabilities and global coverage will also permit to go beyond existing boundaries of protected areas to address anthropogenic pressures on ecosystems, as well as identifying ecological corridors and new areas to be protected.

DOPA was developed with other major organisations including the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), the UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC), Birdlife International and the UK Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB).