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Frequently asked questions

Protected Planet - The latest initiative of the World Database on Protected Areas

What is Protected Planet?

Protected Planet is the exciting new website for the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA). Using Protected Planet you can view protected areas worldwide, through the highly visual, interactive design. It will hopefully encourage you to learn more about protected areas, visit these areas, or if you have already, improve the information we have on them, add photos and partake in discussions.

The WDPA has been in existence since 1981, and is the most comprehensive and extensive dataset on protected areas, including both nationally designated protected areas, such as national parks, and internationally designated protected areas, such as World Heritage sites and Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance. The WDPA is a joint project between the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Union for Nature Conservation (IUCN).

Press release for

How do I find protected areas?

Use the search box on the home page to search by country, individual protected area or location. Use the 'near' keyword to find protected areas near a particular location. Use the search suggestions to help you or go to your search results to filter what you are looking for.

Alternatively, you can simply browse the map on the home and click any protected area that interests you.

Can I download data?

Yes, all data on can be downloaded under the terms and conditions of the WDPA. You must be registered and signed in to download data from

To download the entire dataset click "Download All" on the homepgae - this will return the whole database in the search results.

Then use the green ribbon at the bottom of the page to select the download format for your search results . You can download a CSV (tabular format), SHP (shapefile format for use in GIS software) or KMZ (keyhole markup language for use in Google Earth). You can also filter your data on the right hand size to download a smaller proportion of the data, or download a single protected area by navigating to its page on the website.

Go to your profile page to find your most recent downloads in the "Your Downloads" section.

How do I reference/cite the data?

You must ensure that the citation set out below is always clearly reproduced in any publication or analysis involving the WDPA data, in any derived form or format:

IUCN and UNEP. (Year). The World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA). UNEP-WCMC. Cambridge, UK.

Where can I find statistics about the protected areas in the WDPA?

Statistics on the WDPA are available at Here you can find graphs and coverage statistics that use the WDPA data.

What information can I find out about each protected area? displays all information stored in the WDPA. Things like its name, boundary, IUCN category, designation and area. For a full list of the WDPA data standard you can download the data standard here: data standard. We have also linked up with the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species to display species information found within a protected area. This is viewable by clicking on the 'Species in this protected area map'. Why not download this information. For further information about the species information in the IUCN Red List visit the website here.

Protectedplanet also uses descriptive information on the web from Wikipedia and photos from Google's Panoramio. You can get to the source of both of these from the protected areas page.

How do I contribute to

There are three main ways to help.

  1. Rate the photos. This is based on how beautiful they are and how well you think they represent the protected area in which they are found.
  2. Update the Wikipedia articles. If you find a protected area page without a Wikipedia article, see if you can find it in Wikipedia (only the english version at the moment). If you find one, submit it to If you don't find one, why not create a Wikipedia page then add it to
  3. Suggest improvements to the information. If you find the information provided is wrong, then please suggest an alternative. That includes everything you see in the info box on the right of the page and the boundary.

Can anyone edit protected areas data?

Yes. We displayed information on from two sources we call Authority and Community

Anyone can become a community source, whereas authority sources are regulated by UNEP-WCMC and only accessible by admin.

A user must first be registered on before they can use any editing functions. Once registered they subsequently become a community source. Community sources can do the following:

  • Suggest alternative attribute information (name, designation, etc.) of protected areas online.
  • Suggest alternative geometry (the boundaries of protected areas) online.
  • Maintain their own version of protected areas information.

What is the difference between the 'authority' and 'community'?

These sources are defined as the following:

Authority: The agency or organisation responsible for managing protected areas information at the national system level. Most commonly these will be national ministries and agencies or NGOs with delegated responsibility for managing the protected areas information within a country. For international conventions such as World Heritage or Ramsar, the authority will lie with the secretariats or delegated organisation. Authorities are assigned at the discretion of UNEP-WCMC. If you think you are an Authority data provider and would like to provide updated or new protected areas data please contact UNEP-WCMC at

Community: Any person or organisation that has not been assigned ‘authority’ status. The community will include but is not limited to protected areas practitioners, local NGOs, scientists, armchair environmentalists and private organisations. The community will be fostered to support fact-based participation. The focus of this community is not for advocacy.

Why do we need community editing?

There are a number of benefits associated with allowing community sources to edit data:

  • Improves information quality where capacity to capture or disseminate digital protected areas information is low.
  • Increases the quality of information by capturing data at the local level.
  • Generates a database of people associated with every protected area in the world.
  • Fosters communication between protected area stewards.
  • Raises the profile of protected areas work to a broader community.
  • Allows any one person to contribute and share their knowledge of protected areas

What are the brown shaded boxes on the map?

There are two ways the location of the protected areas are stored in the World Database on Protected Areas. The boundary and a single point location. Where we only have a point location we have created a box which represents the reported area. This is not the real boundary.

What are the IUCN categories?

The IUCN categories are an internationally recognized global system for defining and recording protected areas, often being incorporated into national legislation, and are based on the management of a protected area. Further details of the categories can be found on IUCN’s website - IUCN Website: Protected Areas Categories System.

Can I get a summary of protected areas information by country?

Yes! When you are on a protected area page simple click on the country name in the title to view statistics about the protected area coverage. The coverage statistics follow the methodology published for the MDG analysis.

Carbon estimates are based on a global map of carbon storage (Scharlemann et al. 2009), which consists of a dataset of carbon stored in above - and below ground biomass (Ruesch and Gibbs 2008) combined with a dataset on carbon stored in soil down to 1 meter depth (Scharlemann et al. in prep.). The quality of these estimates will further improve with time, as more accurate datasets become available. Additional biodiversity datasets identifying areas of biodiversity importance will be added.

Coastlines and country’s boundaries of the world were sourced from World Vector shoreline plus, 3rd edition. (the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, 2004)

EEZ information was derived from the VLIZ Maritime Boundary dataset. A methodology for creating the information can be found on their website.

Please note. The geographic designations in the WDPA do not represent an opinion by UNEP, IUCN or WCMC 2000 concerning the legal status of any country, territory or area, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers or barriers.

What are the guideline when contributing information?

There are four simple rules when adding information to

  1. No advocacy. The aim of is to get an accurate picture of all protected areas in the world. This is not the place to promote a particular agenda or issue
  2. Be civil. As my mother once told me, please treat all users, organisations and governments as you would expect to be treated yourself. If you disagree with another users point of view, please be constructive and polite. Please no bad language.
  3. No vandalism. We hope the intentions of our users are the same as ours so please keep the information you provide as accurate as possible.
  4. Include the information source whenever possible. Whether a book, peer reviewed publication or another website, it helps us qualify the value of the information. Also make sure you have permission if the information you provide is copyrighted

The WDPA team in Cambridge monitor all contributions to the If you do feel the urge to not follow the guidelines, we will likely contact you and if necessary remove your content from the website.

When will data be 'locked down'?

Locking down data means stopping any edits to either the authoritative and/or community protected areas information by anyone apart from the administrators. We have deliberately created a two branch system to retain the integrity of the official data whilst creating the flexibility in the community data stream. This means in 99% of cases, no lock down will be necessary as it will not be possible to alter the authoritative data without being the national government or NGO responsible. Some examples of when we may want to lock down data include:

  • There are political sensitivities on the boundary of the protected area (e.g. border disputes).
  • There are continual changes to a protected area where multiple users disagree about the correct information. Commonly know as “edit warning”.
  • Information is being changed deliberately as a lobbying/advocacy activity.
  • Continual abusive or derogatory language appears on any page.

In all of these cases UNEP-WCMC will maintain discretion when deciding what to lock and what not to lock.

Can I use the data within publications?

Yes, you may publish the WDPA data in whole or in part, including on-line, providing: (a) the WDPA Data are not downloadable, and (b) the proper citation is clearly visible (see ‘How do I reference/cite the data?’) WDPA data published online must provide a clear link to the original WDPA data ( We strongly recommend that you have the relevant materials reviewed by UNEP-WCMC and/or the IUCN-WCPA prior to publication. We require two free copies of all published materials to be provided to UNEP-WCMC and IUCN-WCPA. Hard copies should be sent to Protected Areas Programme, UNEP-WMC, 219 Huntingdon Road, Cambridge CB3 0DL, UK. Electronic copies should be sent to

Can I use the data for commercial purposes?

Neither (a) the WDPA Materials nor (b) any work derived from or based upon the WDPA Materials ("Derivative Works") may be put to Commercial Use without the prior written permission of UNEP-WCMC. For the purposes of these Terms and Conditions, "Commercial Use" means a) any use for profit or to generate revenue, or b) any use by an individual or entity operating within or on behalf of or to the benefit of or to assist the activities of any entity other than a not-for-profit organisation. To apply for permission for Commercial Use of the WDPA Materials please send an email to outlining your needs.

Can I redistribute or sub-license the data?

You may not redistribute the WDPA Data contained in the WDPA in whole or in part by any means including (but not limited to) electronic formats such as web downloads, through web services, through interactive web maps that grant users download access, KML Files or through file transfer protocols. The WDPA data may not be sub-licensed in whole or in part including within Derivative Works without the prior written permission of UNEP-WCMC. If you know of others who wish to use the WDPA Data please refer them to this website

What are the terms and conditions?

To see the full terms and conditions for downloading data please click here.

Who owns the data?

The intellectual property rights remain with the data providers, whether they are authority or community sources. Neither UNEP-WCMC nor IUCN assert any intellectual property rights in the data that is made available by third party data providers for inclusion in the WDPA. However, all intellectual property rights in the design and construction of the website and WDPA database are the property of UNEP and IUCN.