Climate change and protected areas

Making protected area networks resilient to climate change



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The Challenge

Protected areas have long been recognized as a robust system for biodiversity conservation, but they are under heavy and increasing pressures from human activities, including farming, poaching and logging. Furthermore, in the West Africa region, capacities to manage natural resources within protected areas are already stretched thin. These existing threats are now being exacerbated by the effects of climate change.

For protected areas to effectively safeguard biodiversity into the future, those who manage them need to evaluate their vulnerability to climate change as a basis for conservation planning. This requires accurate data for modelling possible future climate change scenarios, a sound methodology to assess the vulnerability of species and protected areas to climate change impacts, the development of adaptive strategies, and perhaps most importantly, sufficient capacities to implement these new approaches.

Our solution & impact

The aim of the PARCC project was to develop science-based tools to improve the resilience of protected area networks to the effects of climate change. The project worked in collaboration with the governments of five partner countries: Chad, The Gambia, Mali, Sierra Leone and Togo. Transboundary pilot activities involving each of these countries, and additional countries, were also implemented.

Managed by UNEP-WCMC, PARCC brought together diverse partners to contribute their expertise to developing these new methodologies for assessing climate change impacts, and building capacity in the West Africa region for integrating climate change into national policies and protected area management plans.

The project began at the end of 2010 and was successfully completed in July 2016. Notably, it has:

·         Convened a number of meetings of the Project Steering Committee and Technical Advisory Group

·         Produced a series of studies on West African protected areas and climate change, including assessments of species and protected areas vulnerability to climate change (for over 2,000 PAs)

·         Held several regional and national training workshops on interpreting climate information and assessing species vulnerability to climate change

·         Revised the existing Management Effectiveness Tracking Tool (METT) to include climate change questions

·         Implemented activities related to managing climate change impacts at five transboundary pilot sites

·         Developed adaptation strategies and policy recommendations at the regional level and for each of the five project countries

All the main achievements of the project have been summarised in a report which is available online in English and French. Furthermore, all the results of the vulnerability assessments for all West African protected areas have been integrated into the Protected Planet website. All information and data can be accessed at

Expertise & Team

PARCC was managed from UNEP-WCMC by Elise Belle, who has both hands-on experience of conservation projects and an academic background in biological sciences. For part of the project, she was also assisted by Sylvia Wicander and others in the Protected Areas Programme. UNEP-WCMC’s Head of Biodiversity Science, Neil Burgess, who has over 20 years of experience in African biodiversity conservation, was PARCC’s Main Scientific Advisor, coordinating the work of all the international scientific partners.

Neil burgess

Neil Burgess

Head of Science Programme

Partners & Donors

PARCC’s main regional partner was the International Union for Conservation of Nature Central and West Africa Protected Areas Programme (IUCN PACO).

International technical partners included the UK Met Office Hadley Centre, BirdLife International, Durham University, IUCN Global Species Programme, and the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology (DICE) at the University of Kent.

PARCC was funded by the Global Environment Facility.