The United Nations List of Protected Areas is an essential reference document for all who want to understand the progress made in responding to the challenges of biodiversity loss and other environmental threats around the world. It is a record of extraordinary human achievement over 125 years - a commitment by nations, peoples, groups and individuals to safeguard areas of land and sea from destruction. Protected areas represent human ideals at their best - they express a long term vision and a broad sense of responsibility towards people and nature.
This version of the list is the twelfth in a series, each recording steady expansion in the total area protected. There are now some 12,754 areas in the UN List, covering almost 8% of the land surface of the world (a far smaller proportion of the oceans is protected). Compared to the previous, 1993 edition of the of the UN List, this report includes 2,933 more sites covering 3.9 million more square kilometres. At the end of the century it can be said that practically every country has protected areas; some have a very sophisticated network of sites.
The UN List is produced through a partnership between lUCN's World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) - formerly CNPPA - and the World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC). WCPA has helped WCMC in the collection of the data, but more importantly has redesigned the protected areas management categories system upon which the current list is based. The new system was adopted in 1994. It includes just six categories, the first five of which are similar to those used previously. Category VI is new: areas managed mainly for the sustainable use of natural ecosystems (or Managed Resource Protected Areas), thus recognising the increasingly close link between protection and sustainable use.
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