The World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) is the most comprehensive global database of marine and terrestrial protected areas, updated on a monthly basis, and is one of the key global biodiversity data sets being widely used by scientists, businesses, governments, International secretariats and others to inform planning, policy decisions and management.
The WDPA is a joint project between UN Environment and the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The compilation and management of the WDPA is carried out by UN Environment World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC), in collaboration with governments, non-governmental organisations, academia and industry. There are monthly updates of the data which are made available online through the Protected Planet website where the data is both viewable and downloadable.
Data and information on the world's protected areas compiled in the WDPA are used for reporting to the Convention on Biological Diversity on progress towards reaching the Aichi Biodiversity Targets (particularly Target 11), to the UN to track progress towards the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals, to some of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) core indicators, and other international assessments and reports including the Global Biodiversity Outlook, as well as for the publication of the United Nations List of Protected Areas. Every two years, UNEP-WCMC releases the Protected Planet Report on the status of the world's protected areas and recommendations on how to meet international goals and targets.
Many platforms are incorporating the WDPA to provide integrated information to diverse users, including businesses and governments, in a range of sectors including mining, oil and gas, and finance. For example, the WDPA is included in the Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool, an innovative decision support tool that gives users easy access to up-to-date information that allows them to identify biodiversity risks and opportunities within a project boundary.
The reach of the WDPA is further enhanced in services developed by other parties, such as the Global Forest Watch and the Digital Observatory for Protected Areas, which provide decision makers with access to monitoring and alert systems that allow whole landscapes to be managed better. Together, these applications of the WDPA demonstrate the growing value and significance of the Protected Planet initiative.
For more details on the WDPA please read through the WDPA User Manual.
The WDPA was established in 1981, but the mandate for the database dates back from 1959 when the United Nations (UN) Economic and Social Council called for a list of national parks and equivalent reserves in recognition that they 'are valuable for economic and scientific reasons and also as areas for the future preservation of fauna and flora and geologic structures in their natural state'
Resolution 713 (XXVII). The first UN List of Protected Areas, as it became known, was subsequently published in 1962. Since this time there have been several decisions from the Conference of the Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity encouraging Parties to share and update relevant information on their protected areas system with the World Database on Protected Areas.
The Protected Planet website, which is the online interface of the WDPA, was launched in 2010 and upgraded in 2015 and 2016. Also in 2015, the WDPA structure and protocols were updated to allow it to better incorporate information on protected areas under the governance of private entities, local communities, and indigenous peoples. In recent years, some key products have been released together with the publications of the latest UN List of Protected Areas (Deguignet et al. 2014). For example the global Protected Planet Reports which were launched in 2012 (Bertzky et al. 2012) and 2014 (Juffe-Bignoli et al. 2014a) with the first regional Asia Protected Planet Report (Juffe-Bignoli et al. 2014b) being launched in 2014.
The WDPA and the Protected Planet website are part of UNEP-WCMC's Protected Planet Initiative. This Initiative aims to:
- informs decision-making and enhances action;
- be the global platform for the communication, exchange, acquisition and analysis of knowledge and data on the status and trends of protected areas;
- provide the world's policy-makers with the best possible information on protected areas and their value for conserving biodiversity and ecosystem services, and supporting human communities.