Protected Areas 101
Definition of Protected Area
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 (International Union for the Conservation of Nature, 2008).
Protected area is a general term covering several types of sites, designated and managed to meet different objectives. Types of protected areas commonly found in the Caribbean are: national park, marine park, forest reserve, protected forest, wildlife reserve, natural monument, and fish sanctuary.
Six categories of protected areas are defined by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN); (1a) Strict Nature Reserve, (1b) Wilderness Area, (2) National Park, (3) Natural Monument, (4) Habitat/Species Management Area, (5) Protected Landscape/ Seascape, and (6) Managed Resource Protected Area. Sites of international importance (e.g. World Heritage and Ramsar Sites) may also fall within one of the six categories. Alternately, sites falling under one of the IUCN categories may be located within a larger conservation area, such as a Biosphere Reserve. However, many countries create protected areas that do not fit within these six IUCN categories.
Protected areas are created to support a range of development objectives, mainly the conservation of natural (biodiversity) resources. Other objectives for development of protected areas are; economic development and community livelihoods, social development (recreation and education), and protection of historical/cultural resources and traditions. These multiple objectives for development of protected areas are achievable because protected areas conserve critical ecosystems that provide a wide range of goods and services.