About Protected Areas
Protected areas are clearly defined geographical spaces, 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.
Key protected area benefits
- Over a third of the world’s 100 largest cities rely on forest and wetland protected areas for a significant proportion of their drinking water.
- Protected areas increase food security by conserving crop wild relatives for crop breeding and helping maintain freshwater and marine fish stocks.
- Protected areas have direct and indirect health benefits, including conservation of medically-important species for both local use and pharmaceutical production, as places for exercise and in the treatment of mental patients.
- Protected areas can prevent extreme climatic events and earthquakes from developing into disasters e.g by maintaining forests on slopes to prevent landslides, absorbing tidal surges and storms in coral reefs and mangroves and preventing desertification and dust storms.
- Globally protected areas store more than 312 gigatons of carbon (GTC) or 15% of terrestrial carbon stock. Tropical, temperate and boreal forests, sea grass beds, mangroves, and salt marshes are key carbon stores and sinks.
- Protected areas fulfil cultural and spiritual needs, provide iconic tourist destinations and protect numerous sacred natural sites which themselves often have important biodiversity values.
- The New York City watershed provides water to some nine million people through six reservoirs in the Catskills Mountains. Careful management of the landscape and protected areas provide the largest unfiltered water supply in the U.S.A., costing millions in watershed protection but avoiding billions of dollars in infrastructure costs for filtration.
- Many of Colombia’s protected areas situated in the Andes above 4,000 metres, such as the Los Nevados Natural National Park, safeguard water supplies to downstream hydropower plants which supply 60% of Colombia’s power supply.
- The 11 interconnected protected areas of Australia’s highest mountains, the Australian Alps, span 1.64 million hectares and conserve catchments which deliver high quality water annually for agriculture in Australia’s food bowl, the Murray-Darling Basin.
- It was estimated in the 1990s that the introduction of new genes from Crop Wild Relatives, many of which are restricted to protected areas, contributes approximately US$20 billion towards increased crop yields per year in the US alone and US$115 billion worldwide.
- In 2006, fish provided more than 2.9 billion people with at least 15% of their average per capita animal protein intake. Marine protected areas (MPAs) have repeatedly been shown to increase exploitable fish stocks in surrounding waters by providing secure nursery and breeding areas.
- Many people (80% in Africa) rely on traditional medicines;
28% of plants are used medicinally and 60% of medicinal plants are
collected from the wild, including in protected areas.