Protected areas can take on many different forms, such as national parks, wilderness areas, community conserved areas, nature reserves and privately owned reserves. According to IUCN,

At the start of the 20th century, there were only a handful of protected areas in the world, although many have existed for generations. Over time they have been recognised as a mainstay of biodiversity conservation as well as contributing to people’s livelihoods. Today, there are approximately 200,000 protected areas in the world, which cover around 14.6% of the world’s land and around 2.8% of the oceans.

At the time of the World Parks Congress in Sydney, the latest update on protected area coverage will be made public.

Why are protected areas important?

Protected areas provide a wide range social, environmental and economic benefits to people and communities worldwide. They are a tried and tested approach that has been applied for centuries to conserve nature and associated cultural resources by local communities, indigenous peoples, governments and other organizations.

More than instruments for conserving nature, protected areas are vital to respond to some of today’s most pressing challenges, including food and water security, human health and well-being, disaster risk reduction and climate change.

As the world continues to develop at a rapid pace, pressure on ecosystems and natural resources intensifies. Protected areas, when governed and managed appropriately and embedded in development strategies, can provide nature-based solutions to this pressure, and take their place as an integral component of sustainable development.

Protected areas...

  • ... provide drinking water to one in three of the world’s 100 largest cities;
  • ... store the same amount of carbon as the tropical rainforests;
  • ... keep us healthy by being the source of clean air and water, as well as new medicines;
  • ... help reduce the risks and consequences of extreme events such as floods, storm-surges, drought and sea-level rise;
  • ... enhance food security by boosting fisheries and preserving wild relatives of crops; and
  • ... provide homes, jobs and livelihoods to millions of people around the world.

Everyone can contribute to ensuring healthy protected areas provide benefits to current and future generations.

The IUCN World Parks Congress 2014 will welcome diverse sectors of society, including business, government, non-governmental organizations and institutions, indigenous peoples, and youth to explore and expand the role that protected areas play in supporting global social and economic conservation and development goals.

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