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The performance and potential of protected areas

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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Figure 1: Growth of the modern terrestrial and marine protected area estate.
Figure 2: Percentage of each terrestrial and marine ecoregion represented in the 2014 protected area estate.
Figure 3: A global portrait of different forms of decline in government support in terms of protected areas.

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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.

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Watson, J., Dudley, N., Segan, D. et al. The performance and potential of protected areas. Nature 515, 67–73 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1038/nature13947

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