Protected areas (PA) can take on many different forms, such as national parks, wilderness areas, community conserved areas, nature reserves and privately owned reserves. According to IUCN, “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.”
Beginning 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 recognized 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.
Protected areas provide a wide range of 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.
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