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Protected areas .... Achieving quality. Global Protected Areas Programme. Understanding critical issues of category assignment.

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protected areas achieving quality
Protected areas .... Achieving quality

Global Protected Areas Programme


The process for applying the IUCN categories starts with the definition of a protected area. If a site meets the definition then a category and governance type can be assigned.


Important points to consider when applying the categories

Category assignment is based on the primary management objective which should apply to at least 75% of the area

Zones are not usually categorised separately but individual protected areas can be ‘nested’ in larger protected areas

Size can help indicate the protected area category ...

as can the level of naturalness


1. The category is based on management objectives:

  • The choice of category should be based on the primary management objective(s) stated for each protected area
  • The primary management objective must be applicable to at least 75% of the protected area (and the remaining area must be compatible with the primary purpose of conservation)
the 75 rule

Small areas, often on the periphery of the park (of no more than 25%) with management infrastructure (i.e. offices, vehicle maintenance depot, etc)

The 75% rule

Core area of the park (75% or more managed for ecosystem services and controlled tourism)

Small areas, often on the periphery of the park (of no more than 25%) with more intensive tourism infrastructure and some agriculture


2. The difference between zones and “nested” sites

  • Different zones in larger protected areas can also have their own categories, but only if they are:
    • clearly mapped
    • recognised by legal or other effective means as distinct areas
    • have distinct and unambiguous management aims that can be assigned to a particular protected area category

Different types of protected habitat

Mixed habitat important for bird species

Mountain top source of river


Traditionally mixed habitat of forest (managed and unmanaged) and agriculture

Farmed area now being restored as important grassland area with native species and used for recreation

Wetland area


Can be assigned different management categories and recorded as separate areas if clearly mapped, recognised as distinct areas and managed accordingly

Category Ia government managed protected area

Category IV privately managed protected area

Category III Community Conserved area

Area managed by local community as a category V protected area

Category II government managed protected area

Category IV Private protected area


Or categorised and recorded as one protected area if management covers the whole area with different management zones focussing on particular habitats type requirements

Category Ia government managed protected area

Area managed for bird species

Category V protected area

Core area managed to protect important wetland area

Restoration management zone

4 naturalness and protected area categories

Outside protected areas

Protected areas

IUCN protected area

management category




Line shows degree of environmental modification



Most natural conditions

Least natural conditions

4. Naturalness and protected area categories
protected areas achieving quality1
Protected areas .... Achieving quality

Global Protected Areas Programme