IUCN category

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The IUCN Protected Areas Categories System is a system of the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources  (IUCN), in which all protected areas of the world can be categorized according to protected area management ( IUCN category ), and which is an international benchmark for national classes.


The IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) was founded in 1948 and, in addition to the overriding goal of protecting nature, also aims to create uniform criteria for the assessment, development and protection of ecosystems. In 1933, the Swiss non-governmental organization organized an international conference on the protection of fauna and flora in London. Four categories of protected areas have been defined there. In 1942 another attempt followed to subject nature reserves to a certain standardization. The IUCN subsequently set up a WCPA (World Commission on Protected Areas) . In 1962, at the first World Conference on National Parks in Seattle, this presented guidelines for the establishment of national parks and other comparable protected areas.

In the period that followed, the criteria and patterns for various protected area categories were continuously developed. This resulted in initially 4 categories 6, later 10. The current system was introduced in 1978 and revised in 1994. Today 6 categories are decisive again. The system is now also used for the creation of the UN List of Protected Areas by the UNEP World Conservation Monitoring Center . It is also used worldwide in the planning and design of the protection goal of new areas, as well as in the design of legal protection classes .

IUCN categories

IUCN Protected Area Categories System:

Principle of the category system

The system does not represent a hierarchy, but a classification of the protection goal and management , i.e. the measures and prohibitions taken in the protected area. In practice, however, there is a rough correlation between closeness to nature and the IUCN category.

The latter two classes no longer correspond to the concept of nature conservation in the classic sense ( wilderness concept ), but to a more modern concept of the biosphere , i.e. areas in which resource conservation as a human habitat together with the "rest of" nature is in the foreground, in particular the inclusion of anthropogenic landscapes as an ecosystem. It also includes protected areas that fall under environmental protection in German-speaking countries (protection of nature with the intention of protecting human interests) and similar protected areas. This separation has become obsolete with the contemporary realization that natural values , such as the recreational function , also represent a fundamental human interest.

The class II ( National Park ) not - Therefore, in many countries the national parks - national protected areas meaning: causing an international for some confusion, it comes from the US National Park concept, but makes no representations about the "national" character of a conservation area classifiable in category II. A typical example is the Swiss National Park , which is classified IUCN Ia Strict Nature Reserve .


The WDPA database, the online version of the UN List of Protected Areas , gives the following figures (as of mid-2014, figures rounded, with percentages of the total stock).

number %
Yes 10,000 5
Ib 2900 1
II 5200 2
III 23600 11
IV 55300 26th
V 28300 13
VI 8100 4th
210100 100

The figures show that classical nature reserves (IV) 1 / 4 constitute all protected areas around the world, at least 6% strict conservation areas (reserves, Ia and Ib), and 1 / 6 of all the areas (II and V) is provided for recreational purposes.

The small number of resource protection areas (VI) is due to the fact that the class is, on the one hand, more recent, and on the other hand, spatial planning areas and economic interests (such as drinking water sanctuaries, spawning zones for edible fish, protection, mating and breeding protection for game, avalanche protection forests and flood zones, or urban green belts) were not recorded in the mid-2010s.

Note: The database is rather incomplete with regard to the IUCN classification, as it is based on reports from national nature conservation authorities, some of which do not (yet) contain a category, some states are completely missing, and there are numerous classes that are not per se in IUCN categories to be included ( e.g. Natura 2000 areas ):
Not Reported: 47500; Not Applicable: 29,300, together 37% (also as of mid-2014)

Web links

Individual evidence

  1. ^ IUCN Protected Area Categories System. IUCN.org (last accessed February 10, 2013) - the original English text.
  2. a b European Environment Agency (Ed.): Protected areas in Europe - an overview . EEA Report No 5/2012. 2012, ISBN 978-92-9213-329-0 , ISSN  1725-9177 , 4.1.3 The IUCN categories for types of protected area management , p. 54 ff., esp. 55 , col. 1 u. 2 , doi : 10.2800 / 55955 ( pdf , eea.europa.eu).
  3. In Estonia, for example, category VI represents a significantly stricter protection class than category II. This is due to the fact that the focus of Estonian nature conservation law - following the European Natura 2000 idea - is on restoring biodiversity , while the national parks are purely recreational areas Of a nature park . Specification according to protected areas in Europe . EEA report. 2012, p. 55 , col. 1 .
  4. European Environment Agency (Ed.): Protected areas in Europe - an overview . EEA Report No 5/2012. 2012, ISBN 978-92-9213-329-0 , ISSN  1725-9177 , 4.1.3 The IUCN categories for types of protected area management , p. 55 , col. 1 u. 2 , doi : 10.2800 / 55955 ( pdf , eea.europa.eu).
  5. protectedplanet.net: Search , accessed May 7, 2014.