Protected Areas

Best Practice Guidelines

IUCN WCPA has a proud tradition of proposing global guidelines to protected area practitioners. For the full list of Best Practice Protected Areas Guidelines Series in the IUCN Library System, click here.



No: 29: Guidelines for privately protected areas (2018) Privately Protected Areas Management BPG Photo: IUCN
These guidelines address planning and management of privately protected areas (or PPAs) and the guidance is aimed principally at practitioners and policy makers, who are or may be involved with PPAs. Guidance is given on all aspects of PPA establishment, management and reporting, and information is provided on principles and best practices, with examples drawn from many different parts of the world. The aim of these guidelines is to shape the application of IUCN policy and principles towards enhanced effectiveness and conservation outcomes, focused on PPA managers and administrators. Not all the guidance will necessarily apply in all social, political and economic contexts. However, learning from best practices around the world and considering how these can be incorporated at site or national level may improve the likelihood of success in private conservation and suggest how conditions might be improved to favour PPAs and thus capitalise on the opportunities they present.


Tools for measuring, modelling, and valuing ecosystem services Photo: IUCN No. 28 :Tools for measuring, modelling, and valuing ecosystem services (2018)

Increasing interest in measuring, modelling and valuing ecosystem services (ES), the benefits that ecosystems provide to people, has resulted in the development of an array of ES assessment tools in recent years. Selecting an appropriate tool for measuring and modelling ES can be challenging. This document provides guidance for practitioners on existing tools that can be applied to measure or model ES provided by important sites for biodiversity and nature conservation, including Key Biodiversity Areas, natural World Heritage sites, and protected areas.


Tourism and visitor management in protected areas Photo: IUCN BPG No 27: Tourism and Visitor Management in Protected Areas (2018)

Protected areas are a key component of any global conservation strategy. Tourism provides a crucial and unique way of fostering visitors’ connection with protected area values, making it a potentially positive force for  conservation. Protected area tourism’s economic benefits—which depend on beautiful natural areas, healthy wildlife and nature, and authentic cultures—can also be a powerful argument for conservation. Tourism in protected areas  is a major part of the global tourism industry—an industry whose scale and impacts are enormous. Such a high volume of visitors implies certain needs for fundamental infrastructure and requirements for employment and human services, all of which have ramifications for the economy, society, culture and the environment. These Guidelines provide guidance on key issues to help managers achieve sustainable tourism in protected areas. (Also available in Spanish, French, German and Portuguese).

Large-Scale Marine Protected Areas: guidelines for design and management Photo: IUCN No 26: Large-Scale Marine Protected Areas: guidelines for design and management (2017)

Although focused on aiding managers, these Guidelines are for anyone involved in supporting LSMPAs or the communities that hold an interest in them. It is hoped these Guidelines will also assist new LSMPAs from the earliest design phase, and enhance the management of existing LSMPAs from planning and implementation through ongoing evaluation. Ultimately, the goal is to increase the effectiveness of LSMPAs so that they contribute to global conservation targets in ways that truly benefit humanity.


Wilderness Best Practice Guidelines 25 Photo: IUCN WCPA No 25: Wilderness Protected Areas: Management guidelines for IUCN Category 1b
protected areas

The purpose of these first-ever international Guidelines for managing wilderness (Category 1b) has been to impress upon you the challenges involved in managing wilderness, while also clarifying the essential techniques, protocols, and mindset required of a good, efficient, adaptable, and visionar


Adapting to Climate Change Photo: IUCN WCPA No 24: Adapting to Climate Change, Guidance for Protected Area Managers and Planners (2016) 

The world’s climate is changing rapidly and protected areas are an increasingly important component of national and international climate change adaptation strategies. These guidelines articulate essential elements for adaptation planning and implementation, and it describes additional resources that site managers can use right away.


Transboundary Conservation: A systematic and integrated approach Photo: IUCN No 23: Transboundary Conservation: A systematic and integrated approach (2015). 

Approximately one-third of all terrestrial high-biodiversity sites straddle national land borders, yet few man-made boundaries are fixed, and international boundaries often alter over time or disappear altogether. This publication makes the compelling case for transboundary conservation approaches and promotes an array of innovative methods based on contemporary principles. It has been developed primarily to provide transboundary conservation managers with advice on how to work more effectively and how to address the challenges that are specific to transboundary conservation. 


Urban Protected Areas - Profiles and best practice guidelines_Cover Photo: IUCN WCPA Urban Specialist Group No. 22: Urban Protected Areas (2015)

As our cities continue to grow, we should defend the protection of natural areas and even try to create new space for nature within this urban fabric. This volume explains the context and concept of urban protected areas, profiles urban protected areas in 15 metropolitan areas around the world, and offers best practice guidelines. Although it emphasizes management approaches and is designed primarily for managers of urban protected areas and those responsible for protected area systems, it has been written with a broader readership in mind. (also in French / en français, and in Portuguese)


Guidelines for applying protected area management categories 2013 version Photo: Helen Miller No. 21: Guidelines for applying protected area management categories including Best Practice Guidance on Recognising Protected Areas and Assigning Management Categories and Governance Types (2013). (Also see the 2008 version in English, French, SpanishArabicCzech, Japanese, Korean)

The IUCN protected area management categories is a core document for the development, reporting and understanding of protected areas worldwide. In this reprint of the 2008 categories new text on Recognising Protected Areas and Assigning Management Categories and Governance Types, drawing on global best practice and extensive consultation, provides guidance on implementing the categories.


Best Practice Guidelines Governance of Protected Areas Photo: IUCN No. 20: Governance of Protected Areas (2013). Over the past decades there has been a dramatic change in understanding about how governance of protected areas impacts on the achievement of their conservation goals. IUCN has issued a typology of four different forms of governance of protected areas. Along with the familiar state-run protected areas, there are those established and managed by indigenous peoples or local communities, there are privately managed protected areas as well as a wealth of shared-governance arrangements. (Also in French, Spanish and Portuguese). Annexes are available in English, French, and Spanish.


Marine Protected Area Guidelines 2019 Marine Protected Area Guidelines 2019 Photo: IUCN/WCPA No. 19: Guidelines for Applying the IUCN Protected Area Management Categories to Marine Protected Areas (2019)

The smaller number of MPAs compared to terrestrial protected areas means there is less experience and understanding of applying categories to MPAs. Application of the categories to MPAs has often been inaccurate and inconsistent. These supplementary marine guidelines are therefore aimed at ensuring that the IUCN categories can be effectively applied to all types of MPAs, as well as to any marine components of adjoining terrestrial protected areas, provided a site meets the IUCN definition of a protected area. (2012 version also in French, Spanish)

IUCN resolutions relevant to these guidelines are proposed for discussion at the 2020 World Conservation Congress. Further updates will be prepared to reflect any relevant approved motions and will be available on the IUCN-WCPA Marine theme pages.


Ecological Restoration for Protected Areas Photo: Best Practice Guideline No. 18: Ecological Restoration for Protected Areas - Principled, Guidelines and Best Practices. (2012)

This publication provides guidance for terrestrial, marine and freshwater protected area managers on the restoration of natural and associated values of protected areas. It introduces key concepts and provides advice on underlying principles and guidelines, technical best practices, and implementation processes. It includes many examples and several case studies that illustrate on-the-ground experiences with ecological restoration in and around protected areas across the globe.

To the best of our knowledge, this publication is the most comprehensive compilation of guidance and related examples of ecological restoration for protected areas produced to date. We encourage you to explore the ideas, guidance, and examples it contains as a framework for taking action, both within and outside protected areas, that re-establishes species, re-connects habitats, re-instates natural processes, recovers cultural traditions and practices and, in doing so, restores the values and benefits of protected areas for all. (Also in French, Spanish).


Protected Areas and Staff Training Photo: Best Practice Guideline No. 17: Protected area staff training : guidelines for planning and management (2011)

Qualified, competent and committed staff are central to the success of protected areas. Training of protected area (PA) staff is more and more recognized as a vital component of efficient protected area management. As well as being an essential tool at local, regional and national levels, capacity building for PAs now has a strong international context and is being embedded into major global conventions and PA-related decisions. The principal goal of PA staff training is to raise the capacity of PA managers to adapt to new challenges, using innovative and creative approaches. These Guidelines treat each training course as a project that follows the classic project cycle: from identifying training needs through resourcing, development and delivery of training to assessment of the use of the competences acquired.


Guidelines Sacred Natural Sites Photo: IUCN No. 16: Sacred natural sites : guidelines for protected area managers (2008)

Sacred sites are the oldest form of protected areas and many of them are very important biodiversity reservoirs. This book will help conservation professionals and the custodians of sacred sites interested in the role of cultural and spiritual values in nature conservation to ensure the long-term survival of such valuable sites. Also available in separate Estonian, French, Japanese, Korean, Russian, and Spanish language versions.


Identification and gap analysis of key biodiversity areas: targets for comprehensive protected area systems Photo: IUCN No. 15: Identification and gap analysis of key biodiversity areas : targets for comprehensive protected area systems (2007)

Important Bird Areas and Important Plant Areas have already been identified in more than 170 countries. The Key Biodiversity Areas approach builds on the work done to date, in order to provide practical guidance to governments in identifying those sites which must be protected to ensure the future of both biodiversity and humanity.


Evaluating effectiveness : a framework for assessing management effectiveness of protected areas Photo: IUCN No. 14: Evaluating effectiveness : a framework for assessing management effectiveness of protected areas (2006)

The Framework for management effectiveness developed by the IUCN World Commission for Protected Areas was published in the first version of this Best Practice Guideline. It is further explained and interpreted, although not substantially altered, in this version. A number of key guidelines for good practice in evaluation are presented from many practitioners around the world, and important needs and directions for the future are identified.(Also in French)


Sustainable financing of protected areas : a global review of challenges and options Photo: IUCN No. 13: Sustainable Financing of Protected Areas (2006)

It has become clear during recent global deliberations on biodiversity conservation that achieving Protected Area (PA) financial sustainability will require major changes in the way that PA funding is conceptualized, captured and used. With many, if not most, PAs facing funding crises, both in terms of the amount of funds available and how those are used, there is an urgent need to expand and diversify PA financial portfolios, and to ensure that funding reaches the groups and activities essential for biodiversity conservation. A range of innovative financing mechanisms have been developed and implemented to increase funding for PAs. This document aims to review and assess the status of a variety of these mechanisms, the major obstacles and opportunities for their implementation, and the potential for improvement.


Forests and protected areas : guidance on the use of the IUCN protected area management categories: cover Photo: IUCN No. 12: Forests and Protected Areas

Protected areas are the cornerstone of virtually all national and international conservation policies. About 10% of the worlds forests are to be found in protected areas, and Forest Protected Areas make a critical contribution to conservation. The purpose of this publication is to address two questions, both of which are strategic, complex and politically significant: What is, and what is not, a Forest Protected Area? What other forms of forest protection are there, and how do they relate to Forest Protected Areas?


Indigenous and local communities and protected areas: towards equity and enhanced conservation Photo: Cardiff IUCN

No. 11: Indigenous and Local Communities and Protected Areas

Conventional approaches to managing protected areas have often seen people and nature as separate entities. They preclude human communities from using natural resources and assume that their concerns are incompatible with conservation. Protected area approaches and models that see conservation as compatible with human communities are explored. The main themes are co-managed protected areas and community conserved areas. Practical guidance is offered, drawing on recent experience, reflections and advice developed at the local, national, regional and international level.


Guidelines for management planning of protected areas Photo: IUCN No. 10: Guidelines for Management Planning of Protected Areas

A Management Plan is a document which sets out the management approach and goals, together with a framework for decision making, to apply in a specific protected area over a given period of time. Critical to the plan is the widest possible consultation with stakeholders and the development of objectives that can be agreed and adhered to by all who have an interest in the use and ongoing survival of the area concerned. These Guidelines, based on global best practice drawn from many areas around the world, represent a working framework for protected area planners to consider and adapt to their needs and circumstances. (Also in Arabic, ChineseFrench and Japanese)


Management Guidelines for IUCN Category V Protected Areas Protected Landscapes/Seascapes Photo: Cardiff IUCN No. 9: Management Guidelines for IUCN Category V Protected Areas Protected Landscapes/Seascapes

Protected Landscapes (IUCN Protected Area Category V) are lived-in working landscapes. In the past, there has been a tendency to see them as a rather Eurocentric approach to protected areas but increasingly the category is being designated in other parts of the world, including in a number of developing countries. The Guidelines include sections on the background and on the planning of such areas, and chapters on the principles, policies, process and the means for their management. The text includes more than 20 case studies from more than 15 countries in every region of the world. (Also in Chinese, French and Spanish)


Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas Cover Photo: IUCN No. 8: Sustainable Tourism in Protected Areas

The link between protected areas and tourism is as old as the history of protected areas. Though the relationship is complex and sometimes adversarial, tourism is always a critical component to consider in the establishment and management of protected areas. These guidelines aim to build an understanding of protected area tourism, and its management. They provide both a theoretical structure and practical guidelines for managers. The underlying aim is to ensure that tourism contributes to the purposes of protected areas and does not undermine them. (Also in Chinese, Russian, Japanese and Spanish)


Transboundary protected areas for peace and co-operation Photo: Cardiff IUCN No. 7: Transboundary Protected Areas for Peace and Co-operation

Protected areas are vital for life on earth. They safeguard biological and cultural diversity, help to improve the livelihoods of local communities, provide the homelands for many indigenous peoples and bring countless benefits to society at large. It is now generally understood that conservation planning cannot just be site-specific; plants and animals do not recognize national boundaries, nor do many of the forces that threaten them. Strategies to conserve biodiversity in the 21st century must therefore emphasize transboundary co-operation , and may at the same time foster better co-operation and understanding between countries. This publication reports on the work undertaken by IUCNs World Commission on Protected Areas to focus attention on the conservation and security benefits of transboundary protected areas. (Also in Chinese)


Evaluating effectiveness: a framework for assessing the management of protected areas Photo: Cardiff IUCN No. 6: Evaluating Effectiveness

This publication proposes a framework for assessing management effectiveness, recognising the need for a variety of responses depending on needs and resources. It aims to help all those who wish to assess protected areas, both in suggesting what needs to be done and in providing some guidelines. It includes six practical case studies from Australia, the Congo Basin, Central America, South America and the USA


Financing Protected Areas: Guidelines for Protected Area Managers Photo: Cardiff IUCN No. 5: Financing Protected Areas

These guidelines explore financing options for protected areas and provide advice and information on sustainable financing. Both public and private financing is needed to ensure provision of the private and public goods and services which protected areas provide. A step-by-step process is given which protected area managers can use to create business and financial plans tailored to the needs and strengths of their protected area. Mechanisms are discussed for generating revenue flows from both public and private sources and an overview of potential grant-based sources of financing is given. It concludes with case studies demonstrating how protected area managers worldwide have developed cohesive funding strategies


Guidelines for marine protected areas Photo: IUCN WCPA No. 4: Guidelines for Marine Protected Areas

Creation and effective management of marine protected areas (MPAs) have lagged behind those of protected areas on land, but they are just as important. The world urgently needs a comprehensive system of MPAs to conserve biodiversity and to help rebuild the productivity of the oceans. The aim of these guidelines is to help countries establish systems of MPAs as a key component of integrated management of coastal and marine areas and as part of their sustainable development. The various actions to make an effective MPA are set out, from early planning stages to implementation. These guidelines aim to help policy-makers, planners and field managers, whether working on conservation of nature or sustainable use 


Indigenous and traditional peoples and protected areas: principles, guidelines and case studies Photo: Cardiff IUCN No. 3: Indigenous and Traditional Peoples and Protected Areas

It is sometimes assumed that protected areas must be in conflict with the rights and traditions of indigenous and other traditional peoples on their domains. In reality, where indigenous peoples are interested in the conservation and traditional use of their lands, waters, territories and the natural and cultural resources that they contain, conflicts need not arise. Formal protected areas can provide a means to recognise and guarantee the efforts of many communities who have long protected certain areas, such as sacred groves and mountains. This publication provides a framework for developing partnerships between indigenous and other traditional peoples and protected area managers. It contains a number of case studies giving examples from different parts of the world on successful experiences on the application of these (Also in Spanish)


Economic Values of Protected Areas Photo: IUCN Publications No. 2: Economic Values of Protected Areas

This guide illustrates the potential for using valuation as a tool for diversifying the funding structure for protected areas and for providing information about stakeholders which is crucial for effective management. It provides information and examples of how economic valuation tools and methodologies have been and can be applied to protected areas and is intended to enable protected area managers to determine how they can use valuation as a tool for conserving, sustainably using, and equitably sharing biological resources and to enable economists to help fulfil those goals


National System Planning for Protected Areas, BP Guideline Photo: IUCN WCPA No. 1: National System Planning for Protected Areas

A system plan is the design of a total reserve system covering the full range of ecosystems and communities found in a particular country, identifying the range of purposes of protected areas and the relationships among the system components (i.e. individual areas, protected areas and other land uses), and different sectors and levels of society. Highlighting key linkages with other aspects of economic development, it should show how various stakeholders can interact and co-operate to support effective and sustainable management of protected areas, and help to establish priorities. A valuable resource for all those involved with national system planning (Also in Arabic, Chinese and Russian)

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