World Commission on Protected Areas

Urban Conservation Strategies

The IUCN WCPA Urban Conservation Strategies Specialist Group works to strengthen the ability of the conservation community to serve urban people, urban places, and urban institutions.
urban river and recreation

Specialist Group Leader


The group focuses on expanding and improving management of urban protected and conservation areas, and on encouraging cooperation between protected area agencies and urban institutions such as museums, botanic gardens, zoos, and aquariums.

The Specialist Group was formed in 2005 out of concern that IUCN and the global conservation community more generally have concentrated their attention on areas relatively remote from cities, while there are many reasons why urban places, people, and institutions are also crucial to the success of nature conservation, nationally and globally.

Cities are where national-level political power is exercised most strongly, most wealth is concentrated, and most media are based. Conservation depends on support from urban voters, donors, and communicators, yet people living in cities have diminishing contact with nature. Nature is essential to people’s physical and mental health, development, and wellbeing. Natural areas in and around cities help give residents a sense of place, offer opportunities to learn about nature and sustainability, provide a wide range of ecosystem services, contribute to carbon sequestration, and bolster resilience to climate change.

At the same time, cities can have major negative impacts on surrounding ecosystems; urban ports, airports, and gardens are entry points for invasive alien species; and urban sprawl is often a major threat to biodiversity.

The Specialist Group is concerned with urban people and places, rather than cities as local governments. Local authorities are important, but are only one among many kinds of conservation actors in the urban arena.

The Urban Specialist Group is also the home of the Dark Skies Advisory Committee, which makes the case for dark-sky protected areas and other means of protecting nature from artificial light; and the Natural Sounds Advisory Committee, which works to protect natural and cultural soundscapes in protected areas. 


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