World Database on Protected Areas

WDPA Website

The Protected Areas Programme is the custodian of the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA). Originally established in 1981, it is a joint project between UNEP-WCMC and IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA). The WDPA is the most complete dataset on the world's terrestrial and marine protected areas, featuring protected areas in every country.

Hosted on Protected Planet, the WDPA is freely and easily accessible online, putting the WDPA at the forefront of conservation data sharing initiatives promoted by the Conservation Commons. The database holds data from governments and non-government organizations (NGO) which is regularly updated and covers a diverse range of protected areas, from those that are strictly protected for conservation purposes to those where sustainable use of natural resources is allowed.

Both spatial and attribute information is held in the database. The spatial data has traditionally been provided in the form of paper maps, but today is being provided electronically, in the form of GIS electronic maps, often referred to as 'shape files'. These files provide information on the the midpoint location (latitude & longitude) and/or the size and shape (boundary data) of a specific protected area.

This data coverage allows for detailed reporting to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) and its signatory countries on global progress in terms of meeting the CBD targets for protected areas, as set out in the Programme of Work on Protected Areas.


• Support and tracking of world and regional progress towards a number of international targets, mandates, and assessments such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDG) and the targets of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

• Compilation of the UN List of Protected Areas.

• Public release of protected areas data. Since 2003 the WDPA has released an updated version of the database on an annual basis. Since the launch of Protected Planet, online changes to protected area data can be made by community members and are shown in addition to the official records.

• Ecological gap analysis of protected areas facilitates the identification of the extent of protection for biomes, habitats, and species, which helps prioritise the establishment of protected areas.

• Risk and environmental impact assessments can be used by various industries to plan their activities away from important conservation areas so a balance between development and conservation is achieved.

• Estimating the extent and quantity of carbon stocks protected.

• International oil spill and other emergency response action planning.

• Scientific research into the extent, location and effectiveness of protected areas.

• Planning of new protected areas.

In This Section

Protected Planet

Protected Planet

Protected Planet is a new initiative to showcase the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) that uses the 'citizen science' approach to engage the public in gathering and improving information on protected areas. By making this information openly available, the global community can help to improve it, thereby assisting in the conservation of biodiversity and helping to boost global interest in protected areas. Protected Planet is a compilation of the WDPA data, together with species data from the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF) and incorporates articles from Wikipedia™, Google Maps™ technology, and photos from Panoramio™ and Flickr™.


UN List of Protected Areas

UN List of Protected Areas

The UN List is the official list of protected areas provided by the United Nations. It is produced by UNEP-WCMC working in close collaboration with the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA). Information is provided by national authorities, secretariats of international conventions and programmes from other organisations to the WDPA.