A bottom-up practitioner-derived set of Essential Variables for Protected Area management

Herman Hummel, Valerie Kalle, Louise Bienfait, Yolande Boyer, Marco Heurich, Juraj Svajda, Mihai Adamescu, Constantin Cazacu, Félix Manuel Medina, Rasa Morkūnė, Arturas Razinkovas-Baziukas, Dimitris Poursanidis, Orhideja Tasevska, Ajman Al Malla, Ana Stritih, Christian Rossi, Salvador Arenas-Castro, Claudia Carvalho-Santos, Izak P.J. Smit, Emiliana ValentiniAlessandra Nguyen Xuan, Daniel Orenstein, Antonello Provenzale, Rutger de Wit, Christiaan Hummel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Assessing the environmental status of Protected Areas (PAs) is a challenging issue. To indicate that status, the identification of a common set of variables that are scientifically sound, and easy to assess and monitor by the PA practitioners, is particularly important. In this study, a set of 27 Essential Variables (EVs) for PA management was selected in a bottom-up process from 67 harmonised variables that describe the status of Ecosystem Functions and Structures, Ecosystem Services, and Threats in PAs. This bottom-up process involved 27 internationally recognised PAs, mostly European, with different level of protection, different extent, and a wide range of human-nature interactions. The EVs were selected by more than 120 practitioners, i.e. PA managers and rangers, as well as scientists, working in terrestrial and aquatic PAs. Across both terrestrial and aquatic PAs, scientists and practitioners largely identified the same variables as important. Data availability for these 27 EVs varied between PAs and av eraged 67% across all studied PAs. As this set of EVs for PAs is defined through a bottom-up approach considering variables already in use both in management and research, it is more than for previous EVs likely to be adopted, applied and developed to record the status and changes in the ecological and socio-economic conditions of PAs and to forecast future changes. Thereby, the EVs for PAs present a common vocabulary and tool to enhance in a uniform way the (inter)national communication, exchange and comparison of information on the status of PAs between policy makers, scientists and PA managers. The perceived status of the EVs, on an average 3.6 on a scale to a maximum of 5, indicates the surveyed PAs are in a moderate to good environmental condition. Moreover, the EVs for PAs form a cost- and time-efficient tool for PA managers to monitor developments in essential elements of their PAs, including the potential for Societal Goods and Benefits (SG&B), and to (pro-)actively tackle the potential threats that may arise in their area. Likewise, for policy makers EVs for PAs may support decision making on ecosystem management, spatial planning, and predictive modelling on the future status and requirements of PAs in their country or region.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100179
JournalEnvironmental and Sustainability Indicators
StatePublished - Jun 2022


  • Bottom-up procedure
  • Ecosystem functions
  • Ecosystem services
  • Essential variables
  • Protected areas
  • Stakeholders
  • Threats

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences (miscellaneous)
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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