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Frequently Asked Questions
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What is the WDPA?
The World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) is the most comprehensive global spatial
dataset on marine and terrestrial protected areas available.
Protected areas are internationally recognised as major tools in
conserving species and ecosystems. Up to date information on protected areas is
essential to enable a wide range of conservation and development activities.
Since 1981 UNEP-WCMC, through its Protected Areas Programme, has been compiling
this information and making it available to the global community. The WDPA is a
joint project of UNEP and IUCN, produced by UNEP-WCMC and the IUCN World Commission
on Protected Areas working with governments and collaborating NGOs.
What are the terms and conditions of use of the WDPA?
Terms and Conditions of Use of the World Database on Protected Areas
Access to WDPA Data and any other content within the WDPA (the "WDPA Materials") is provided on the understanding that you read and consent to be bound to the Terms and Conditions set out below. For the purposes of this Agreement WDPA Data comprise all the spatial data and associated attribute data contained within the WDPA.
PLEASE READ THESE TERMS AND CONDITIONS CAREFULLY. IF YOU DO NOT AGREE TO ANY OF THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS DO NOT DOWNLOAD. BY DOWNLOADING THE WDPA MATERIALS YOU ACCEPT AND AGREE TO COMPLY WITH THE TERMS AND CONDITIONS BELOW
2. NO COMMERCIAL USE
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 email@example.com outlining your needs.
3. NO SUB-LICENSING OR REDISTRIBUTION OF WDPA DATA
The WDPA Materials may not be sub-licensed in whole or in part including within Derivative Works without the prior written permission of UNEP-WCMC. 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. If you know of others who wish to use the WDPA Data please refer them to this website. If you wish to provide a service through which the WDPA Data are downloadable or otherwise made available for redistribution you must contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission and further guidance.
4. PUBLISHING THE WDPA
You may publish the WDPA Materials in whole or in part, including on-line, providing (a) the WDPA Data are not downloadable and (b) the proper attribution is clearly visible (see clause 5 below). You must ensure that the most recently available version of the WDPA Materials is being used and that the year of release is visible in the published version. WDPA Materials published online must provide a clear link to the original WDPA (www.wdpa.org). 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 email@example.com.
You must ensure that one or other of the citations set out below is always clearly reproduced in any publication or analysis involving the WDPA Materials in any derived form or format:
6. WDPA UPDATES
Unless required to do so for specific analyses, you should not use any version of the WDPA Materials after it has been superseded by a subsequent version. It is your responsibility to check if an update of the WDPA Materials is available.
7. NO WARRANTY AND WAIVER OF LIABILITY
The WDPA is provided to you 'as is', and no warranty of any kind is given as to its completeness or accuracy, nor do we make any commitment to ensure that the WDPA Materials are kept up to date. All warranties, representations and conditions, express or implied, are hereby excluded to the fullest extent permitted by law. You agree that you download and make use of the WDPA Materials entirely at your own risk. You hereby waive and release UNEP-WCMC, UNEP, IUCN, WCMC and any and all third party providers of WDPA data from any liability whatsoever, wherever and howsoever arising in connection with any use of the WDPA. You agree that this waiver and release is effective in any and every jurisdiction in the world. You agree that UNEP, IUCN, WCMC and any and all third party providers of WDPA data will not be liable on any grounds (including without limitation negligence, strict liability or under any other legal theory) for any loss or damage (direct or indirect) incurred by you or any third party as a result of the use by you or any third party of the WDPA Materials or any Derivative Works. You also agree to indemnify and hold harmless UNEP, IUCN, WCMC and any and all third party providers of WDPA data in respect of any loss or damage (direct or indirect) suffered by any third party as a result of any use by that third party of any WDPA Materials or Derivative Works published by you. Without limitation to the above, any damage occurring to computer systems as a result of attempts to download WDPA data is entirely your own responsibility.
8. DISCLAIMER ON FRONTIERS, NATIONAL BOUNDARIES
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.
9. FEEDBACK AND REVISED INFORMATION
In order to keep the WDPA up to date, UNEP and IUCN would like you to provide feedback on the quality, reliability and accuracy of the WDPA Materials. We also welcome revised information on the WDPA in the form of GIS data, maps, tables, GPS coordinates or any other useable format. Such contributions should be free of restrictions. The objective is to improve the WDPA content for the benefit of the global conservation community. You can register to submit electronic protected area data via the WDPA website.
10. NO GRANT OF INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY RIGHTS
No rights in the WDPA Materials are granted to you by virtue of these Terms and Conditions or as a result of any use by you of the WDPA Materials. 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 WDPA website and database are the property of UNEP and IUCN.
11. DISPUTE RESOLUTION, LAW AND JURISDICTION
These Terms and Conditions shall be governed by and construed in accordance with English law. Any dispute arising out of or in connection with this download and the subsequent use of the WDPA shall be settled by amicable negotiation between you and UNEP-WCMC. Should attempts at amicable negotiation fail, any such dispute shall, upon request by either you or UNEP-WCMC, be referred to arbitration in accordance with the UNCITRAL arbitration rules then prevailing.
Any communication with respect to these Terms and Conditions and any issue arising from them shall be in writing, in English, and sent by email. The address for communication with the WDPA supplier is firstname.lastname@example.org.
13. CHANGES TO THESE TERMS AND CONDITIONS
UNEP-WCMC reserves the right to vary these Terms and Conditions from time to time without notice. Therefore please ensure that you read these Terms and Conditions each time you download WDPA Materials. By downloading WDPA Materials you signify your acceptance of the most recent version of these Terms and Conditions in full.
What is a protected area?
Protected areas are locations which receive protection because of their environmental, cultural or similar value. Countries often have extensive systems of protected areas developed over many years. These systems vary considerably country to country, depending on national needs and priorities, and on differences in legislative, institutional and financial support. Protected areas transcend different environments from the highest mountains to the deepest sea, across forests, deserts, lakes and even national boundaries (territories).
The WDPA uses the definition of a protected area (terrestrial, freshwater, and marine) as adopted by IUCN as the main criteria for a locations entry into the database.
A protected area is:
“A clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values”.
Source: Dudley, N. (Editor) (2008). Guidelines for Applying Protected Area Management Categories. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. x + 86pp.
The first key point of this definition is that the primary objective of the protected area is conservation of nature. The second key point is that the protection is 'effective'. This will generally mean that the area is protected by an Act of Parliament, in the case of public land, or by a covenant or conservation agreement, in the case of privately owned, or indigenous land.
For more information on the IUCN protected area definition please see here.
How are protected areas established?
Protected areas can be established by a number of legislative mechanisms from an
Act of Parliament to a conservation agreement.
Typically many protected areas are established (or designated) within a countries
national territory (including any maritime claims) using the appropriate legislation
or agreement. These protected areas, within the WDPA, are classed as nationally
However there are locations of significant environmental, cultural or natural value
that should be protected irrespective of the territory on which they are located.
These locations are often recognized, preserved and protected under an international
treaty or convention. Within the WDPA these protected areas are classed as internationally
Protected areas can be both nationally designated and internationally recognized.
In some cases an internationally recognized site can be composed of multiple national
designated protected areas from different countries.
There are a number of globally and regionally recognized international treaties,
conventions and agreements.
The most common global conventions are:
There are a number of regional international conventions including:
How does UNEP-WCMC deal with disputed territories in the WDPA?
UNEP-WCMC operates a "take down" policy by which we remove from the WDPA any protected area submitted by a National Government for which we receive a formal written complaint from a second National Government concerning the territorial sovereignty of the concerned location.
How are nationally designated protected
Consistency in comparing protected areas across the World under the IUCN definition is achieved by the allocation and use of an internationally defined set of management categories, known as IUCN Protected Area Management Categories. The IUCN definition implies a common set of objectives for protected areas and the IUCN Category system in turn defines differences in management approaches. The WDPA also utilises the IUCN category system, as outlined below. IUCN categories are not applied to protected areas established under international conventions or agreements (e.g. UNESCO World Heritage Sites).
The categories include a definition outlining key aspects within the management intent of the protected area alongside an example designation. For more information and guidelines on the application of IUCN protected area management categories see here.
Category Ia are strictly protected areas set aside to protect biodiversity and also possibly geological/geomorphological features, where human visitation, use and impacts are strictly controlled and limited to ensure protection of the conservation values. Such protected areas can serve as indispensable reference areas for scientific research and monitoring.
Category Ib protected areas are usually large unmodified or slightly modified areas, retaining their natural character and influence, without permanent or significant human habitation, which are protected and managed so as to preserve their natural condition.
Category II protected areas are large natural or near natural areas set aside to protect large-scale ecological processes, along with the complement of species and ecosystems characteristic of the area, which also provide a foundation for environmentally and culturally compatible spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational and visitor opportunities.
Category III protected areas are set aside to protect a specific natural monument, which can be a landform, sea mount, submarine cavern, geological feature such as a cave or even a living feature such as an ancient grove. They are generally quite small protected areas and often have high visitor value.
Category IV protected areas aim to protect particular species or habitats and management reflects this priority. Many category IV protected areas will need regular, active interventions to address the requirements of particular species or to maintain habitats, but this is not a requirement of the category.
A protected area where the interaction of people and nature over time has produced an area of distinct character with significant ecological, biological, cultural and scenic value: and where safeguarding the integrity of this interaction is vital to protecting and sustaining the area and its associated nature conservation and other values.
Category VI protected areas conserve ecosystems and habitats, together with associated cultural values and traditional natural resource management systems. They are generally large, with most of the area in a natural condition, where a proportion is under sustainable natural resource management and where low-level non-industrial use of natural resources compatible with nature conservation is seen as one of the main aims of the area.
Source: Dudley, N. (Editor) (2008). Guidelines for Applying Protected Area Management Categories. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. x + 86pp.
Why are there no protected areas for the United Kingdom in the WDPA?
Due to publishing restrictions on the UK protected areas data we are currently unable to include these sites in the WDPA. UNEP-WCMC are working with data partners and UK agencies to resolve this issue.
What are the files downloaded from WDPA.org and how do I use them?
The WDPA is a spatial database, it holds key attributes or fields of information such as name, designation, area, establishment date, IUCN protected area management category, establishment date etc as well as the delineated boundary or location (latitude and longitude) for the site. The data is held within a Geographical Information System (GIS) enabling users to display the data in desktop mapping programmes (e.g. ESRI ArcMap, ArcView) or view online in 3D globes like Google Earth or ESRI ArcGIS Explorer.
The downloadable dataset is distributed in GIS file format known as shapefiles (.shp) and KML. GIS capable software or earth browsers such as Google Earth / ArcGIS Explorer will be required to view these files. Accompanying (and contained within the shapefiles/kml) is an attribute table that contains key fields of information about the protected areas stored in the WDPA. If you require only tabular information (e.g. DBF or MS Excel) please view the answer to the previous question.
Delineated boundary data is not available for all protected areas in the WDPA; therefore your downloaded dataset may contain polygon (boundary) and/or point (geographic location) shapefiles, representing the available information. The map viewers on the website display the currently available information for every site in the WDPA, displaying either a delineated boundary (polygon) or a location (point).
The WDPA is continually being updated, which includes increasing the number of sites in the WDPA with delineated boundary data. If you are interested in a particular country/region or can assist us in this process please contact email@example.com to discuss further.
Is it possible to download a global spatial (GIS) dataset of national and international protected areas?
Yes - the WDPA Annual Release 2010 is now available. It contains a global dataset of terrestrial and marine protected areas, including specific subsets such as marine protected areas. Registration and agreement to the WDPA Terms and Conditions are required to download the dataset. However, if you require the global dataset for any commercial use/purpose, please email firstname.lastname@example.org directly regarding access.
Click here to access the WDPA Annual Release 2010.
What is the Conservation Commons?
The purpose of the Conservation Commons is to ensure open access and fair use of data, information, knowledge, and expertise on the conservation of biodiversity for the benefit of the global conservation community and beyond. See www.conservationcommons.org for more information
I am working as a project officer at a foundation - can we sponsor/fund you?
Most definitely. Please send an email to email@example.com.