Mapping the world's special places

Opening access to data on global protected areas

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The Challenge

Today every country in the world has a protected area system. Protected areas cover around 15.4 per cent of the world’s land area and 3.4 per cent of the global ocean area. They store 15 percent of the global terrestrial carbon stock, help reduce deforestation, habitat and species loss, and support the livelihoods of over one billion people. The number of designated protected areas rose between 1990 and 2014 from 13.4 million km2 to 32 million km2 of the total area covered. Good news, it would seem, but how effective are protected areas at conserving biodiversity?

The World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) provides a picture of the extent, location, name, status and other useful information on the world’s protected areas. Launched in 1981, this joint project between UNEP and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) World Commission on Protected Areas represents the most complete data set on the world's terrestrial and marine protected areas. The WDPA is used to track progress towards international biodiversity and development targets, identify new priority areas for protection, and flag sensitive conservation areas that should be avoided in industrial development projects.

Until recently, information in the WDPA was not available to the public. This left a large network of conservation-minded people out of the picture – people who could not only learn from, but contribute to, the global biodiversity knowledge base.

Our solution & impact

Protected Planet displays the WDPA data, together with species data from The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species and information sourced from around the web. Launched in 2010 and redeveloped in 2015, the interactive social media-based website makes the WDPA available to a new generation of users around the world, be they government officials, policymakers, scientists, non-governmental organizations, local communities and the general public.

Specifically, users can:

  • explore WDPA data through the map application and access key country statistics
  • access and share information on protected areas through Wikipedia, Facebook, Twitter, and The IUCN Red List website
  • download the latest information about protected areas of the world

Expertise & Team

Two of our teams work together to make Protected Planet what it is:

  • UNEP-WCMC’s development team believes in using open information and innovation to solve the biodiversity issues of our time.
  • The Protected Areas team have extensive experience in working with Protected Areas in various countries and regions. They work in partnership with data providers to ensure the latest data sets are available. 

Partners & Donors

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