Mapping the world's special places

Opening access to data on global protected areas

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Read Protected Planet Report 2014 

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The Challenge

Protected and conserved areas are commonly referred to as the ‘cornerstones’ of global biodiversity conservation efforts. Protected areas are those that are purposefully managed for the long-term conservation of nature; however, positive conservation outcomes can also occur outside of protected areas. Other effective area-based conservation measures (OECMs) are those areas that result in sustained, positive outcomes for biodiversity even though biodiversity conservation is not necessarily the primary management objective. Together, protected areas and OECMs represent one of the most extensive, targeted, and effective mechanisms of biodiversity conservation.

The World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) is the authoritative source of information on the world’s protected areas. Launched in 1981, but with a history dating back to 1959, this joint project between UNEP and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) is the most complete dataset on the world's terrestrial and marine protected areas.

The World Database on Other Effective Area-based Conservation Measures (WDOECM) provides the authoritative source of information on OECMs. Newly created in 2019 at the request of Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), this database is also a joint project of UNEP and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

Both databases are used to track progress towards international biodiversity and development targets such as the SDGs, identify new priority areas for protection, and flag sensitive conservation areas that should be avoided in industrial development projects.

Our solution & impact

Protected Planet is the primary portal from which to access the WDPA and WDOECM, both of which are updated monthly. Additionally, Protected Planet hosts the Global Database on Protected Area Management Effectiveness (GD-PAME), a dedicated News & Stories section, a Resources section, and Thematic Areas focusing on particular topics. Launched in 2010 and redeveloped in 2015 and 2020, the interactive website makes the WDPA available to users around the world, including government officials, policy-makers, scientists, non-governmental organizations, and the general public.

Expertise & Team

Two of our teams work together to manage and deliver Protected Planet:

  • The Conserving Land and Seascapes team has extensive experience in working with protected areas and OECMs in countries and regions all over the world. They work in partnership with data providers to ensure the latest datasets are available. 
  • UNEP-WCMC’s Informatics team believes in using open information and innovation to solve the biodiversity issues of our time. They maintain the Protected Planet website.

Partners & Donors

Protected Planet, the WDPA, and the WDOECM are joint products of UNEP and IUCN, managed by UNEP-WCMC.