Why do we have different versions of the WDPA?

WDPA releases:

The WDPA is compiled from nearly 600 different data providers globally, and UNEP-WCMC release a new version on a monthly basis.The data providers let us know how they would like to see their data used, and we maintain source information for each site in the dataset, including information on any restrictions that the data providers wish to assign to the site information.

This adds some complexity, and means that in reality UNEP-WCMC prepares three different versions of the dataset each month: a 'master' version, a 'public' version, and a 'licensed' version.

UNEP-WCMC stores internally a 'master' version of the WDPA. This version contains both a point and a polygon layer that we update with new information from the relevant countries and territories. It also contains a series of sites that we do not share externally, but are used by UNEP-WCMC to calculate countries' coverage statistics.

In addition to this master version, at the beginning of each month UNEP-WCMC also prepares two versions of the WDPA for external release: a version that we make available on Protected Planet website ( 'public version') and a version that we send to registered commercial users of the dataset, such as through the Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool ('licensed version'). This distinction is needed because some data providers specifically request that the data they provide is not made available for commercial use.

The public version of the WDPA includes data that the data providers have indicated can be used for non-commercial use, and can be downloaded directly through the Protected Planet website in different formats (csv, kml, shp, file geodatabase or ESRI Web Service). We are delighted at how widely and variously used the dataset is, and in 2018, the database was downloaded, in parts or entirely, over 70,000 times.

The licensed version of the WDPA is only accessible to companies who have registered, and is provided in one format (file geodatabase). When data providers have included restrictions for commercial use around their protected area sites, we do not include these in the licensed version of the WDPA.

Data sharing agreements:

We continuously update the WDPA with new countries' protected areas data and information updates to ensure it's always up-to-date. These updates can be complete or partial, with an entire national network update prompting a complete update of a country's dataset, while an update of a subset of a country's national dataset would only require a partial update.

A monthly release information form of the WDPA is available on the Protected Planet website and includes information on the type of updates for each new country dataset in the WDPA.

Data providers who submit data to the WDPA are asked to sign a 'data sharing agreement' form. This ensures that there is a written record of the data provider agreeing to their intellectual property (IP) being included in the WDPA, and outlines the terms for which it is made available. The agreement specifically states how the data provided will be used and that the redistribution or use of the data by third parties will be subject to the WDPA terms of use.

We only update data in the WDPA after the data sharing agreement has been completed and signed.

Data restrictions:

When countries provide updates to their protected area dataset, they might choose to apply some restrictions on its use. Common reasons for data restrictions include the presence of threatened species in some protected areas (in Europe particularly where sites tend to be very small sites) or restrictions for commercial use of the data. UNEP-WCMC always complies with the decision of a country regarding the restriction chosen on a protected area dataset.

How are protected area data different between the public and the licensed version?

The licensed version is a subset of the public version, just with the sites that have restrictions for commercial use removed.. Apart from these restricted sites, each update to the public version is reflected in the licensed version (provided no commercial use restrictions are applied).