Conservation, Role and Trends of Protected Areas

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Protected areas are the cornerstones of global biodiversity conservation. Encompassing some 72.6 million km2 of the global land surface and 116.6 million km2 of the oceans, protected areas represent one of the largest forms of land-use allocation and management in existence. This allocation is slated to increase. with commitments to conserving 30% of the planet by 2030. Over time, natural areas have been protected as sacred places, sources of food, and other natural resources, in appreciation of scenery and recreation opportunities, and to conserve biodiversity. Though many protected areas have been designated based on political or economic considerations, scientific knowledge has also shaped the selection, design, and management of protected sites. As protected area science developed in the twentieth century, the extent of area protected worldwide increased dramatically, though large gaps remain. It seems likely that within a few decades, ownership and use of the world's terrestrial surface will largely be assigned, with marine spaces lagging only a short way behind. As natural areas, with their myriad management systems, become more isolated and fragmented by human activity in surrounding areas, these protected areas will become by far the most important tool for safeguarding nature and yet less effective at doing so. To decrease the isolation of reserves, the science of protected areas must develop in conjunction with that of landscape connectivity and the practice of ecological restoration. Overall, more clearly establishing the social and economic values of the protected area estate could lead to the reduction of threats from within and without protected areas.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEncyclopedia of Biodiversity, Third Edition
Subtitle of host publicationVolume 1-7
ISBN (Electronic)9780128225622
ISBN (Print)9780323984348
StatePublished - Jan 1 2024


  • Biodiversity
  • Condition
  • Conservation
  • Ecoregions
  • Freshwater
  • Marine
  • Protected areas
  • Terrestrial and Threats


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