Protected Areas

Protected area solutions

Protected areas offer vital solutions to some of the most pressing global challenges, including climate change, species extinction and poverty. Recognising this, IUCN has defined 'Solutions' as one of the core business lines for its global work on protected areas.

PANORAMA, Solutions for a Healthy Planet, through its “protected areas solutions” thematic community, profiles specific case studies of such solutions, their success factors and lessons learnt. It also places protected areas in a larger thematic context, through other, inter-linked PANORAMA thematic communities, profiling solutions across multiple themes. Learn more about PANORAMA or visit the database of solutions directly.

When well-planned and justly governed, when the costs and benefits of protected area systems are shared equitably, and when mainstreamed into economic decision-making in all sectors, protected areas contribute markedly to national and local economies and are the foundation for sustainable and resilient livelihoods for many communities.

For years, IUCN has profiled the role that protected areas can play e.g. in climate change adaptation and mitigation, disaster risk reduction, ensuring sustainable local livelihoods and addressing desertification. A first milestone was the publication series “Natural Solutions, produced by IUCN and partners from 2009 on.

The Blue Solutions project (2013-2018) provides a concrete opportunity to establish partnerships and further develop some of the concepts around case-based “solution learning”, with a particular focus on marine and coastal ecosystems. Learn more about IUCN’s work under Blue Solutions or visit the external project website.

The Protected Area Solutions project relies on the IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas (GLPCA) to deliver on the “quality” elements of Aichi Target 11. The project also develops a portfolio of case studies to communicate successful PA biodiversity and climate change outcomes through the PANORAMA platform.

Closely related to the mission of PANORAMA, the WCPA Natural Solutions specialist group promotes and develops the potential for protected areas to deliver a range of ecosystem services, with a particular focus on food and water security and disaster risk reduction.

Protected areas are solutions for, among others:

  • Clean Water

One third of the 105 world’s largest cities derive drinking water from forested protected areas. Another 10% obtain water from sources that originate in ‘protected’ watersheds. Some natural forests (especially tropical montane cloud forests) and wetland areas increase total water flow

  • Food Security

Protected areas conserve populations of wild species, pollinators, and crop wild relatives safeguarding species and populations vital for food security and agriculture.

  • Health

Climate change and lack of clean water are expected to lead to increased health risks and epidemics. Protected areas contribute to health by protecting intact ecosystems and supplies of medicinal plants and genetic material for pharmaceuticals. Many people (80% in Africa) rely on traditional medicines; 28% of plants are used medicinally and 60% of medicinal plants are collected from the wild, including in protected areas.

  • Ecosystem stability

Economic losses from natural disasters have increased ten-fold over the last 50 years. Protected areas can play a role in helping reduce the occurrence and impacts of natural disasters, such as floods, landslides, tsunamis, typhoons and storms, fire and drought and desertification. For example in Argentina flood protection programs have integrated conservation of natural habitats to reduce vulnerability and disaster risks, to complement infrastructure and early-warning investments.


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