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IUCN protected area categories or IUCN protected area management categories — are categories used to classify protected areas, in a system developed by the IUCN—International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
The enlisting of such areas is part of a strategy being used toward the conservation of the world's natural environment and biodiversity. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature—IUCN has developed the protected area management categories system to define, record and classify the wide variety of specific aims and concerns when categorising protected areas and their objectives.
Category Ia — Strict Nature Reserve
IUCN Category Ia Strict nature reserve — area which is protected from all but light human use in order to preserve the geological and geomorphical features of the region and its biodiversity. These areas are often home to dense native ecosystems that are restricted from all human disturbance outside of scientific study, environmental monitoring and education. Because these areas are so strictly protected, they provide ideal pristine environments by which external human influence can be measured.
In some cases strict nature reserves are of spiritual significance for surrounding communities and the areas are also protected for this reason. The people engaged in the practise of their faith within the region have the right to continue to do so providing it aligns with the area's conservation and management objectives.
Human impacts on strict nature reserves are increasingly difficult to guard against as climate and air pollution and newly emerging diseases threaten to penetrate the boundaries of protected areas. If perpetual intervention is required to maintain these strict guidelines, the area will often fall into category IV or V.
Category Ib — Wilderness Area
IUCN Category Ib Wilderness area— areas generally larger and protected in a slightly less stringent manner than that of strict nature reserves.
These areas are protected domain in which biodiversity and ecosystem processes (including evolution) are allowed to flourish or experience restoration if previously disturbed by human activity. These are areas which may buffer against the effects of climate change and protect threatened species and ecological communities.
Human visitation is limited to a minimum, often allowing only those who are willing to travel of their own devices (by foot, by ski, or by boat), but this offers a unique opportunity to experience wilderness that has not been interfered with. Wilderness areas can be classified as such only if they are devoid of modern infrastructure, though they allow human activity to the level of sustaining indigenous groups and their cultural and spiritual values within their wilderness-based lifestyles.
Category II — National Park
IUCN Category II National park — this bears similar characteristics to that of Wilderness Areas with regards to size and the main objective of protecting functioning ecosystems, however National parks tend to be more lenient with human visitation and its supporting infrastructure. National parks are managed in a way that may contribute to local economies through promoting educational and recreational tourism on a scale that will not reduce the effectiveness of conservation efforts.
The surrounding areas of a national park may be for consumptive or non-consumptive use, but should nevertheless act as a barrier for the defence of the protected area's native species and communities to enable them to sustain themselves in the long term.
Category III — Natural Monument or Feature
IUCN Category III Natural monument or feature — represents comparatively smaller areas that are specifically allocated to protect a natural monument and its surrounding habitats. These monuments can be natural in the wholest sense, or include elements that have been influenced or introduced by humans. The latter should hold biodiversity associations or could otherwise be classified as a historical or spiritual site, though this distinction can be quite difficult to ascertain.
To be categorised as a natural monument or feature by IUCN's guidelines, the protected area could include: natural geological or geomorphological features; culturally-influenced natural features; natural cultural sites; or cultural sites with associated ecology. The classification then falls into two subcategories, those in which the biodiversity in uniquely related to the conditions of the natural feature, and those in which the current levels of biodiversity are dependent on the presence of the sacred sites that have created an essentially modified ecosystem.
Natural monuments or features often play a smaller but key ecological role in the operations of broader conservation objectives. They have a high cultural or spiritual value which can be utilised to gain support of conservation challenges by allowing higher visitation or recreational rights, therefore offering an incentive for the preservation of the site.
Category IV — Habitat/Species Management Area
IUCN Category IV Habitat management area and species management area — like Category III Natural monument/feature, this focuses on more specific areas of conservation (though size is not necessarily a distinguishing feature), but in relation to an identifiable species or habitat that requires continuous protection rather than that of a natural feature. These protected areas will be sufficiently controlled to ensure the maintenance, conservation and restoration of particular species and habitats – possibly through traditional means – and public education of such areas is widely encouraged as part of the management objectives.
Habitat or species management areas may exist as a fraction of a wider ecosystem or protected area and may require varying levels of active protection. Management measures may include (but are not limited to); the prevention of poaching, creation of artificial habitats, halting natural succession and supplementary feeding practices.
Category V — Protected Landscape/Seascape
IUCN Category V Protected landscape and protected seascape — area covers entire bodies of land or ocean with a more explicit management plan in the interest of nature conservation, but is more likely to include a range of for-profit activities.
The main objective is to safeguard regions that have built up a 'distinct character' in regards to their ecological, biological, cultural or scenic value. In contrast with previous categories, Category V—Protected Landscapes and Seascapes allow a higher level of interaction with surrounding communities who are able to contribute to the areas management and engage with the natural and cultural heritage it embodies through a sustainable outlook.
Landscapes and seascapes that fall into this category should represent an integral balance between people and nature, and can sustain activities such as traditional agricultural and forestry systems on conditions that ensure the continued protection or ecological restoration of the area.
Category V is one of the more flexible classifications of protected areas. As a result, protected landscapes and seascapes may be able to accommodate contemporary developments such as ecotourism at the same time as maintaining the historical management practices that may procure the sustainability of agrobiodiversity and aquatic biodiversity.
Category VI – Protected Area with sustainable use of natural resources
IUCN category VI Protected Area with sustainable use of natural resources — a generally more encompassing classification that is focused on the mutually beneficial correlation between nature conservation and sustainable management of natural resources in correspondence the livelihoods of those who are dependent on both. A wide range of socio-economic factors are taken into consideration in creating local, regional and national approaches to using natural resources as a tactic to assist sustainable development rather than hinder it.
Though human involvement is a large factor in the management of these protected areas, developments are not intended to allow for widescale industrial production. The IUCN recommends that a proportion of the land mass is to remain in its natural condition – a decision to be made on a national level, usually with specifity to each protected area. Governance has to be developed to adapt the diverse – and possibly growing – range of interests that arise from the production of sustainable natural resources.
Category VI may be particularly suitable to vast areas that already have a low level of human occupation or in which local communities and their traditional practices have had little permanent impact on the environmental health of the region. This differs from category V in that it is not the result of long-term human interaction which has had a transformative effect on surrounding ecosystems.
- Protected area
- Nature reserve
- UNEP-WCMC — United Nations Environment Programme - World Conservation Monitoring Centre.
- World Commission on Protected Areas
- World Database on Protected Areas
- IUCN protected area categories:
- Strict nature reserve — Category Ia
- Wilderness area — Category Ib
- National park — Category II
- Natural monument and Natural feature — Category III
- Habitat management area and Species management area — Category IV
- Protected landscape and Protected seascape — Category V
- Protected Area with sustainable use of natural resources — Category VI
- Francoise Burhenne-Guilmin (2011). Guidelines for Protected Areas Legislation. IUCN. p. 147. ISBN 9782831712451 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK].
- Mike J. Jeffries (2006). Biodiversity and conservation (2nd ed.). Psychology Press. p. 191. ISBN 9780415342995 [Amazon-US | Amazon-UK].
- IUCN Guidelines for Applying Protected Area Management Categories, Published 2 October 2008
- Category Ia Strict Nature Reserve
- Category Ib Wilderness Area
- Data for Serengeti National Park (Category Ib) on Protected Planet
- Category II National Park
- Category III Natural Monument or Feature
- Data for The Galápagos Islands (Category IV) on Protected Planet
- Category IV Habitat/Species Management Area
- Category V Protected Landscape/Seascape
- Data for The Great Barrier Reef Marine Park (Category VI) on Protected Planet
- Category VI Protected Area with sustainable use of natural resources
- IUCN Official IUCN Website
- IUCN IUCN: Global Protected Area Programme
- IUCN IUCN: World Commission on Protected Areas
- World Database on Protected Areas
- UNEP-WCMC Protected Areas Programme
- WDPA's Management Effectiveness Information Module
- 2010 Biodiversity Indicators Partnership Indicator Factsheet: Management Effectiveness of Protected Areas
- IUCN protected area categories:
- A-Z of Areas of Biodiversity Importance: IUCN Protected Area Categories
- A-Z of Areas of Biodiversity Importance: IUCN Category Ia – Strict Nature Reserve
- A-Z of Areas of Biodiversity Importance: IUCN Category Ib – Wilderness Area
- A-Z of Areas of Biodiversity Importance: IUCN Category II – National Park
- A-Z of Areas of Biodiversity Importance: IUCN Category III – Natural Monument or Feature
- A-Z of Areas of Biodiversity Importance: IUCN Category IV – Habitat / Species Management Area
- A-Z of Areas of Biodiversity Importance: IUCN Category V – Protected Landscape / Seascape
- A-Z of Areas of Biodiversity Importance: IUCN Category VI – Protected Area with sustainable use of natural resources