Protected Areas are designated at a variety of scales from sub-national to national to supra-national scales. In order to capture the various scales, and by extension the history behind such sites, within the World Database on Protected Areas there are three levels of Protected Areas recognized.
- National: Sites designated or proposed at the national or sub-national level
- Regional: Sites designated or proposed by a country under a regional (supra national) framework or agreement. For example, the European Natura 2000 network or the various Regional seas conventions. Biodiversity is often shared among neighbouring countries and territories. In order to help conserve nature at the scale of a region countries often adopt regional Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) aimed to foster regional cooperation.
- International: Sites designated or proposed by a country under an international framework or agreement. Currently there are three such designations in the WDPA; World Heritage Sites, Ramsar Sites (Wetlands of International Importance) and UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserves.