Explore national parks with the click of a button

A new online database that manages the world’s national parks has been launched today at the IUCN World Conservation Congress.

Charles Besançon, UNEP-WCMC Photo: IUCN/Group J. Muntaner

IUCN and the United Nations Environment Programme’s World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC) have joined forces with private sector funding to address the need for better management of the world’s national parks, which make up 12.9 percent of the Earth’s land mass.

This is a larger area than all of the world’s croplands combined and 18 times larger than the combined area of the world’s urban landscapes.

The online tool allows users to zoom in, fly over and explore over 100,000 national parks. It looks at areas including endangered species, habitats, landscapes and livelihoods.

The database also pays particular attention to the world’s oceans, including mangroves, corals and sea grasses, because less than one per cent of our seas are effectively protected.

Achim Steiner, UN Under-Secretary General and UNEP Executive Director, said the database is the best resource available to quantify our marine and terrestrial environment.

“Creating and maintaining national parks and protected areas is one of the most important commitments that nations make towards protecting endangered species, habitats, landscapes and local livelihoods,” he said.

“Improved information on protected areas is essential for all, from on-the-ground park managers to scientists and policy makers,” Achim Steiner added. “Scientists need to know what is protected and where increased protection is needed. The database also enables the private sector to know where they should and should not be operating.

“Protected areas are not a luxury with their value resting outside the economy. In the 21st century we realize the value of natural capital. Protected areas are savings bank of the intellectual property of nature. They also have the capacity to store carbon, which is becoming increasingly important with the threat of climate change.”

The World’s Protected Areas book, also launched today, captures the input of information from more than 100 experts from around the world and examines this relationship between people and protected areas.

“Protecting nature’s special places is something that lies close to the hearts of millions of people the world over,” said Mark Spalding, senior marine scientist with The Nature Conservancy and one of the lead editors and contributing authors of The World’s Protected Areas.

“The benefits are immense, for biodiversity and for people. Amidst the doom and gloom of the many very real problems facing the planet, it’s great to step back and see what we’ve achieved.”

Yet the authors point out that even “protected” areas are not free from danger. The book considers the catalogue of threats that are impacting our protected areas, from mismanagement to alien species invasions.

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