About Protected Areas

Ambossa National Park © hoteldephil

Protected areas are internationally recognised as regions set aside primarily for nature and biodiversity conservation and are a major tool in managing species and ecosystems which provide a range of goods and services essential to sustainable use of natural resources. The term 'protected area' includes Marine Protected Areas (MPA) the boundaries of which will include some area of ocean.

Every nation in the world has designated protected areas, often with an extensive network of protected areas having been developed over many years, and the purpose of them is generally universal in the intention of limiting levels of human occupation and restricting the exploitation of natural resources. These systems vary considerably between countries, depending on national needs and priorities and on differences in legislative, institutional and financial support.

Current IUCN Definition

The International Union for Conservation of Nature’s (IUCN) definition of a protected area is the most widely recognised, and has been adopted on both national and international levels. Protected areas submitted to the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) must conform to the IUCN definition to be given their designation. The most recent revised definition was given by the IUCN to the 2008 World Conservation Congress as follows:


“A protected area is a clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.” - Dudley, N. (ed.) (2008) Guidelines for Appling Protected Areas Management Categories. IUCN: Gland, Switzerland. p.8-9. Web link


Applying this definition is the first step in establishing a protected area, the second being categorisation. The definition now covers all types of protected areas, therefore replacing all previous IUCN definitions of a protected area including the former classification of marine protected areas.

In This Section

History

History

The concept of a protected area is not a new one, and has evolved over time around the core ideal of protecting important resources and places.

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Governance

Governance

Protected areas now have a multitude of functions and are designed and managed based on these.

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Purpose

Purpose

The purpose of protected areas is to protect all natural resources and the ecosystem processes and places they depend on.

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International Conventions/Declarations

International Conventions/Declarations

A number of agreements exist which list protected areas and are of international importance.

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IUCN Management Categories

IUCN Management Categories

Through its World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA), IUCN has provided the international guidelines on the categorisation of protected areas for nearly a quarter of a century.

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