Review Article

The performance and potential of protected areas

  • Nature volume 515, pages 6773 (06 November 2014)
  • doi:10.1038/nature13947
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Abstract

Originally conceived to conserve iconic landscapes and wildlife, protected areas are now expected to achieve an increasingly diverse set of conservation, social and economic objectives. The amount of land and sea designated as formally protected has markedly increased over the past century, but there is still a major shortfall in political commitments to enhance the coverage and effectiveness of protected areas. Financial support for protected areas is dwarfed by the benefits that they provide, but these returns depend on effective management. A step change involving increased recognition, funding, planning and enforcement is urgently needed if protected areas are going to fulfil their potential.

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Acknowledgements

We thank N. Butt, M. Callow, T. Evans, M. Giampieri, J. Hilty, K. MacKinnon, T. McClanahan, M. Rao, E. Sanderson, T. Stevens, S. Stolton, K. Redford, J. Robinson, J. Walston and S. Woodley for their thoughtful comments on earlier versions of this manuscript. We thank B. MacSharry for supplying the latest WDPA protected area data and many colleagues within the IUCN WCPA who have provided information and advice. Because of the reference limitations for this Review, we recognize that many important references have not been cited.

Author information

Affiliations

  1. School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management, University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia.

    • James E. M. Watson
    • , Nigel Dudley
    •  & Marc Hockings
  2. Wildlife Conservation Society, Global Conservation Program, Bronx, New York 10460, USA.

    • James E. M. Watson
    •  & Daniel B. Segan
  3. School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland, St Lucia, Queensland 4072, Australia.

    • James E. M. Watson
    •  & Daniel B. Segan
  4. Equilibrium Research, 47 The Quays, Cumberland Road, Spike Island, Bristol BS1 6UQ, UK.

    • Nigel Dudley
  5. UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Cambridge CD3 0DL, UK.

    • Marc Hockings

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Competing interests

The authors declare no competing financial interests.

Corresponding author

Correspondence to James E. M. Watson.

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