Protected Areas

Category V: Protected Landscape/Seascape

A protected area where the interaction of people and nature over time has produced an area of distinct character with significant ecological, biological, cultural and scenic value: and where safeguarding the integrity of this interaction is vital to protecting and sustaining the area and its associated nature conservation and other values.

Primary objective

To protect and sustain important landscapes/seascapes and the associated nature conservation and other values created by interactions with humans through traditional management practices.

Other objectives

  • To maintain a balanced interaction of nature and culture through the protection of landscape and/or seascape and associated traditional management approaches, societies, cultures and spiritual values;
  • To contribute to broad-scale conservation by maintaining species associated with cultural landscapes and/or by providing conservation opportunities in heavily used landscapes;
  • To provide opportunities for enjoyment, well-being and socio-economic activity through recreation and tourism;
  • To provide natural products and environmental services;
  • To provide a framework to underpin active involvement by the community in the management of valued landscapes or seascapes and the natural and cultural heritage that they contain;
  • To encourage the conservation of agrobiodiversity and aquatic biodiversity;
  • To act as models of sustainability so that lessons can be learnt for wider application.

Distinguishing features

Category V protected areas result from biotic, abiotic and human interaction and should have the following essential characteristics:

  • Landscape and/or coastal and island seascape of high and/or distinct scenic quality and with significant associated habitats, flora and fauna and associated cultural features;

  • A balanced interaction between people and nature that has endured over time and still has integrity, or where there is reasonable hope of restoring that integrity;

  • Unique or traditional land-use patterns, e.g., as evidenced in sustainable agricultural and forestry systems and human settlements that have evolved in balance with their landscape.

The following are desirable characteristics:

  • Opportunities for recreation and tourism consistent with life style and economic activities;
  • Unique or traditional social organizations, as evidenced in local customs, livelihoods and beliefs;
  • Recognition by artists of all kinds and in cultural traditions (now and in the past);
  • Potential for ecological and/or landscape restoration.

Role in the landscape/seascape

Generally, category V protected areas play an important role in conservation at the landscape/seascape scale, particularly as part of a mosaic of management patterns, protected area designations and other conservation mechanisms:

  • Some category V protected areas act as a buffer around a core of one or more strictly protected areas to help to ensure that land and water-use activities do not threaten their integrity;

  • Category V protected areas may also act as linking habitat between several other protected areas.

Category V offers unique contributions to conservation of biological diversity. In particular:

  • Species or habitats that have evolved in association with cultural management systems and can only survive if those management systems are maintained;

  • To provide a framework when conservation objectives need to be met over a large area (e.g., for top predators) in crowded landscapes with a range of ownership patterns, governance models and land use;

  • In addition, traditional systems of management are often associated with important components of agrobiodiversity or aquatic biodiversity, which can be conserved only by maintaining those systems.

What makes category V unique?

Category V differs from the other categories in the following ways:
Category Ia Human intervention is expected. Category V does not prioritize research, though it can offer opportunities to study interactions between people and nature.
Category Ib Category V protected areas are not “wilderness” as defined by IUCN. Many will be subject to management intervention inimical to the concept of category Ib.
Category II Category II seeks to minimize human activity in order to allow for “as natural a state as possible”. Category V includes an option of continuous human interaction.
Category III Category III focuses on specific features and single values and emphasises the monumentality, uniqueness and/or rarity of individual features, whereas these are not required for category V protected areas, which encompasses broader landscapes and multiple values.
Category IV Category V aims to protect overall landscapes and seascapes that have value to biodiversity, whereas category IV aims often quite specifically to protect identified target species and habitats. Category V protected areas will often be larger than category IV.
Category VI Category VI emphasises the need to link nature conservation in natural areas whilst supporting sustainable livelihoods: conversely category V emphasises values from long-term interactions of people and nature in modified conditions. In category VI the emphasis is on sustainable use of environmental products and services (typically hunting, grazing, management of natural resources), whereas in category V the emphasis is on more intensive uses (typically agriculture, forestry, tourism). Category VI will usually be more “natural” than category V.

Issues for consideration

  • Being a relatively flexible model, category V may sometimes offer conservation options where more strictly protected areas are not feasible.

  • Category V protected areas can seek to maintain current practices, restore historical management systems or, perhaps most commonly, maintain key landscape values whilst accommodating contemporary development and change: decisions about this need to be made in management plans.

  • The emphasis on interactions of people and nature over time raises the conceptual question for any individual category V protected area: at what point on the temporal continuum should management focus? And, in an area established to protect values based on traditional management systems, what happens when traditions change or are lost?

  • Since social, economic and conservation considerations are all integral to the category V concept, defining measures of performance for all of these values is important in measuring success.

  • As people are the stewards of the landscape or seascape in category V protected areas, clear guidelines are needed about the extent to which decision making can be left to local inhabitants and how far a wider public interest should prevail when there is conflict between local and national needs.

  • How is category V distinguished from sustainable management in the wider landscape? As an area with exceptional values? As an example of best practice in management? Category V is perhaps the most quickly developing of any protected area management approaches.

  • There are still only a few examples of the application of category V in coastal and marine settings where a “protected seascape” approach could be the most appropriate management option and more examples are needed (see e.g., Holdaway undated).

Great Barrier Reef, Australia

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