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. (IUCN Definition).

IUCN has defined protected area management categories and governance types as global standards for classifying and reporting protected areas. IUCN protected area management categories classify protected areas according to their management objectives, while the governance types classify protected areas according to their governance arrangements. These standards are also used to record protected areas in the World Database on Protected Areas managed by UNEP-WCMC. Protected area downgrading, downsizing, and degazettement (PADDD) refers to changes in the legal status of protected areas.


Protected areas (PAs) are expected to conserve nature and provide ecosystem services in perpetuity, yet widespread protected area downgrading, downsizing, and degazettement (PADDD) may compromise these objectives. Even iconic protected areas are vulnerable to PADDD, although these PADDD events are often unrecognized.

Policy options to better govern PADDD include improving tracking and reporting of PADDD events, establishing transparent PADDD policy processes, coordinating among legal frameworks, and mitigating negative impacts of PADDD. To support PADDD research and policy reforms, enhanced human and financial capacities are needed to train local researchers and to host publicly accessible data.

As the conservation community considers the achievements of Aichi Target 11 and moves toward new biodiversity targets beyond 2020, researchers, practitioners, and policy makers need to work together to better track, assess, and govern PADDD globally.

What are Protected Areas

They are the mainstay of biodiversity conservation, while also contributing to people’s livelihoods, particularly at the local level. Protected areas are at the core of efforts towards conserving nature and the services they provide us with, like food, clean water supply, medicines and protection from the impacts of natural disasters and climate change.

IUCN PA Categories

IUCN protected area management categories classify protected areas according to their management objectives. The categories are recognised by international bodies such as the United Nations and by many national governments as the global standard for defining and recording protected areas and as such are increasingly being incorporated into government legislation.

  • Category Ia: Strict Nature Reserve.
  • Category Ib: Wilderness Area.
  • Category II: National Park.
  • Category III: Natural Monument or Feature.
  • Category IV: Habitat/Species Management Area.
  • Category V: Protected Landscape/Seascape.
  • Category VI: Protected area with sustainable use of natural resources.

Guidelines for applying protected area management categories

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