How Much Land Is Protected In The World?

Snow capped peaks in Northeast Greenland National Park.
Snow capped peaks in Northeast Greenland National Park.

The term protected land refers to an area of the world where human activity is limited to prevent or reduce the impact on wildlife. In protected areas around the world, the exploitation of natural resources is controlled and limited by either local or international laws. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) provided the understanding of what constitutes a protected area. According to the organization's guidelines, the conservation of a protected area should have a benefit on the environment or the cultural values of a community. Data from the IUCN indicates that 15% of the world's total land area is considered protected land. Apart from the land, 10% of the world's water is considered protected land. Despite the vast area covered by protected areas in the world, some of the most critical biodiversity regions are not in protected areas. According to guidelines from the IUCN, there are six unique kinds of protected areas in the world.

Types of Protected Areas

Strict Nature Reserves

According to information from the IUCN, strict nature reserves are the most critical type of protected land in the world. These types of protected areas have some purposes such as allowing scientists to research a unique species of wildlife or to safeguard vast swaths of unspoiled regions. Strict nature reserves are significant to various types of environmental monitoring such as air monitoring, water monitoring, and soil monitoring. Due to their importance to global conservation, entry and usage of the strict nature reserves are heavily controlled. In most areas considered strict nature reserves, there are buffer zones formed by wildlife areas. There are strict nature reserves in various regions of the world in countries such as Australia, the United States, and France among others.

National Parks

According to the IUCN, national parks are considered the second type of protected area. Initially, the IUCN set out the regulations of what made up a national park in 1969. According to the initial guidelines, for an area to be considered a national park, the ecosystem needed to be free of human exploitation and visitors had to be allowed to tour the area but only under specific conditions. In 1971, the International Union for Conservation of Nature added several guidelines to better define what made up a national park. Some of the most famous national parks in the world include the Northeast Greenland National Park and Mongolia's Bogd Khan Uul National Park. Despite the clear definitions set out by the IUCN, there are several areas referred to as national parks, yet they do not meet the set out criteria.

Natural Monuments

The third category of protected land according to the IUCN guidelines is the natural monument. Natural monuments are selected due to some factors such as their aesthetic value, their cultural importance, or their historical importance. The European Environment Agency has also set up some guidelines on what constitutes a natural monument. According to their guidelines, for an area to be considered a natural monument, it should have at least one feature of great significance such as fossil beds, waterfalls, maritime features, and caves. The region should also cover a vast area big enough to ensure that the feature's integrity and that of the surrounding area are kept safe. Natural monuments can be found in different countries around the world such as Poland, Argentina, and Spain. Some of the most well-known natural monuments include the Cono de Arita and the Bogusław Oak.

Species Management Area

According to the guidelines set out by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, species management areas are the fourth category of protected areas. Several features distinguish species management areas from other protected areas with the main one being the purpose for which they were set up. The primary reason why species management areas are set up is to safeguard a particular species as well as its habitat. Other features that distinguish species management areas from other protected areas are that they typically cover a relatively small area. In these regions, there is a constant human presence to maintain the species. One of the most well-known species management areas is the Galapagos Islands in the Pacific Ocean and which form part of Ecuador.

Protected Landscapes and Seascapes

The International Union for Conservation of Nature defines this region as a protected area where several activities can be carried out to generate profit. The primary reason why an area is designated as a protected landscape or protected seascape is to protect areas that have developed a unique character. The character may be developed due to distinct ecological or cultural factors. The region is distinct from other protected areas in that the people living around the area are allowed to interact more freely with the environment. Experts believe that these areas present a unique opportunity for people and nature to coexist with nature peacefully. Some of the activities that take place in these regions include forest management and traditional agriculture. Protected landscapes and seascapes are found in different countries around the world such as such as the Philippines and Brazil among others.

Protected Area with Sustainable Use of Natural Resources

According to the guidelines provided by the IUCN, the lowest classification of protected regions is the protected area with sustainable use of natural resources. These areas are unique because they typically cover a larger area than the other types of protected areas. They are also unique because apart from environmental management, traditional resource management activities are also carried out. For a region to be classified as either a protected area with sustainable use of natural resources the primary factor considered is the long-term conservation goals.

Importance of Protected Areas

Protected areas are some of the most critical regions in the world for some reasons primarily because they contribute to environmental conservation. Protected areas are also critical due to the fact they encourage people to use resources sustainably. Despite the importance of these regions, they face several significant challenges such as mismanagement at the local level.


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