GSPC Target 5

Objective I: Plant diversity is well understood, documented and recognized

Objective II: Plant diversity is urgently and effectively conserved

Objective III: Plant diversity is used in a sustainable and equitable manner

Objective IV: Education and awareness about plant diversity, its role in sustainable livelihoods and importance to all life on earth is promoted

Objective V: The capacities and public engagement necessary to implement the Strategy have been developed


The degree to which key ecological regions with important plant diversity are covered within the protected area system is currently unclear. This target has therefore been developed to focus specific attention on areas of high plant endemism and important diversity.

An Important Plant Area can be defined as a site exhibiting exceptional botanical richness and/or supporting an outstanding assemblage of rare, threatened and/or endemic plant species and/or vegetation of high botanic value. 

This target has two components - identifying the areas important for plant diversity and then ensure effective protection of at least 75% of these areas.

Protection can be ensured through effective conservation measures, including, but not limited to, protected areas. In other words, important areas for plant diversity may occur both inside and outside designated protected areas, but in either case, the key challenge will be to ensure that appropriate management measures are taken to maintain and enhance plant diversity in these areas.

Download an introduction to Target 5 here.

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Ensuring the conservation of key plant diversity sites allows plant populations to build resilience by promoting exchange of genetic material and the development of diverse gene pools for the future. Despite the uncertainties introduced by climate change, it is clear that areas of high plant diversity will remain important as refugia and the development of national networks of important areas for plants could provide the basis for in situ conservation matrices.

Implementing this target contributes to the implementation of Target 11 of the Aichi targets of the Strategic Plan for Biodiversity 2011-2020:

T11: By 2020, at least 17 per cent of terrestrial and inland water areas, and 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas, especially areas of particular importance for biodiversity and ecosystem services, are conserved through effectively and equitably managed, ecologically representative and well connected systems of protected areas and other effective area-based conservation measures, and integrated into the wider landscapes and seascapes.


The first IPA criteria were published in 2001 and the first IPA site selection manual published in 2002. Since then IPA projects have been carried out in many countries of Europe and other parts of the world. As a result of the experience of these projects, there has been further clarification or examples of how to deal with certain areas of IPA identification and selection. Two reports published in 2010 highlight IPA identification projects in 66 countries around the world and give specific examples of how the criteria have been applied in different countries and with different data availability.

The identification of IPAs is based on three broad criteria:

• Threatened species
• Botanical richness
• Threatened habitats

 More information on these criteria is available here

A manual produced by Plantlife International on how Important Plant Areas are identified around the world, how they can be protected and the materials that are available to assist this process can be downloaded here.


Tools and resources

Please also check in the database of Tools of Resources for Case Studies relevant to this target.

A guide to implementing IPA by PlantLife (391KB)

A short guide to identifying and implementing Important Plant Areas (IPA) published by PlantLife 


Consolidating standards for identifying sites that contribute significantly to the global persistence of biodiversity: The results of a framing workshop (1109KB)

This document provides a report of a workshop to develop a new globally agreed standard for identifying areas of global significance for biodiversity 


Identifying and Protecting the World’s Most Important Plant Areas (391KB)

This guide provides information on Plantlife International’s Important Plant Area (IPA) programme. It describes how Important Plant Areas are identified around the world, how they can be protected and the materials that are available to assist this process. 



The work carried out by Plantlife International has been instrumental in the progress of this target.

IPAs have now been identified across large sections of Europe, North Africa and the Middle East with 1,994 IPAs in 27 countries identified and documented across this region to date.

In many cases, the resultant IPA networks have been integrated into national conservation planning and monitoring schemes. For example, in Belarus all IPAs are now protected by law, and in Romania IPAs have led to the recognition and protection of new critical habitats, whilst in Croatia many IPAs were included in the expanded protected area network under the Natura 2000 scheme as part of their accession to the European Union in 2013.

In the UK, IPAs form the basis for Plantlife’s UK conservation programme, specifically focussed on conserving rare and threatened plant species and habitats, while in the East and South Mediterranean Plantlife is working with the IUCN Centre for Mediterranean Cooperation, the IUCN/SSC/Mediterranean Plant Specialist Group and national partners to develop species monitoring plans and community action for IPA sites.

Beyond Europe and the Mediterranean region, a number of IPA initiatives have been launched or piloted, and to date 69 countries have made at least an initial assessment of their IPAs including Namibia, Bhutan, China, India, Nepal and Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, The Falkland Island, several Caribbean Islands, Kazakhstan etc.

In 2018, Plantlife international launched their updated IPA database ( This database holds information on sites identified through the Important Plant Areas Programme. Currently the database holds information on IPAs in Albania, Algeria, Belarus, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Egypt, Estonia, Israel, Lebanon, Macedonia (FYR), Montenegro, Morocco, Palestine, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Syria, Turkey, Tunisia, Ukraine, United Kingdom.

In 2015, the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew launched a project that aims to identify and map Tropical Important Plant Areas in seven countries by 2020 (Bolivia, Guinea, Cameroon, Uganda, Mozambique, West Papua and the UK Overseas Territories in the Caribbean). By 2020, Kew and its local partners will have completed the first phase of TIPA analysis: delimitation and mapping in seven countries throughout the tropics, with information on the component species available through the Plants of the World Online Portal. (

A report on the global implementation of Target 5 is available for download here.


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