The definition of a protected area adopted by IUCN is: An area of land and/or sea especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed through legal or other effective means Although all protected areas meet the general purposes contained in this definition, in practice the precise purposes for which protected areas are managed differ greatly. The following are the main purposes of management: (1) Scientific research; (2) Wilderness protection; (3) Preservation of species and genetic diversity; (4) Maintenance of environmental services; (5) Protection of specific natural and cultural features; (6) Tourism and recreation; (7) Education; (8) Sustainable use of resources from natural ecosystems; (9) Maintenance of cultural and traditional attributes.
IUCN has defined a series of protected area management categories based on management objective.Definitions of these categories, and examples of each, are provided in Guidelines for Protected Area Management Categories (IUCN, 1994). The six categories are:
[Strict Nature Reserve] (Ia): protected area managed mainly for science Definition: Area of land and/or sea possessing some outstanding or representative ecosystems, geological or physiological features and/or species, available primarily for scientific research and/or environmental monitoring.
[Wilderness Area] (Ib): protected area managed mainly for wilderness protection Definition:Large area of unmodified or slightly modified land, and/or sea, retaining its natural character and influence, without permanent or significant habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural condition.
[National Park] (II): protected area managed mainly for ecosystem protection and recreation Definition:Natural area of land and/or sea, designated to (a) protect the ecological integrity of one or more ecosystems for present and future generations, (b) exclude exploitation or occupation inimical to the purposes of designation of the area and (c) provide a foundation for spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational and visitor opportunities, all of which must be environmentally and culturally compatible.
[Natural Monument] (III): protected area managed mainly for conservation of specific natural features Definition: Area containing one, or more, specific natural or natural/cultural feature which is of outstanding or unique value because of its inherent rarity, representative or aesthetic qualities or cultural significance.
[Habitat/Species Management Area] (IV): protected area managed mainly for conservation through management intervention Definition:Area of land and/or sea subject to active intervention for management purposes so as to ensure the maintenance of habitats and/or to meet the requirements of specific species.
[Protected Landscape/Seascape] (V): protected area managed mainly for landscape/seascape conservation and recreation Definition: Area of land, with coast and sea as appropriate, where the interaction of people and nature over time has produced an area of distinct character with significant aesthetic, ecological and/or cultural value, and often with high biological diversity. Safeguarding the integrity of this traditional interaction is vital to the protection, maintenance and evolution of such an area.
[Managed Resource Protected Area] (VI): protected area managed mainly for the sustainable use of natural ecosystems Definition: Area containing predominantly unmodified natural systems, managed to ensure long term protection and maintenance of biological diversity, while providing at the same time a sustainable flow of natural products and services to meet community needs.
The Protected Areas Virtual Library was developed by the The World Conservation Monitoring Centre, working in close collaboration with the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (previously the Commission on National Parks and Protected Areas). The Virtual Library is an interlocking network of information sources with access from one 'interface' or page. This information service has been developed to capture references to protected areas information currently available on the Internet to assist protected area professionals in their work. It contains (1) Definition of a Protected Area; (2) National activities; (3) International conventions; (4) International programmes; (5) Protected Areas Resource Centres (PARC) proposal; (6) Other information resources and (7) How to contribute information.