MapMaker: Protected Areas

MapMaker: Protected Areas

The World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) is the most comprehensive global database of marine and terrestrial protected areas, explore categories one through four with this layer in Mapmaker, National Geographic's interactive mapping tool.


9 - 12+


Biology, Ecology, Conservation, Earth Science, Oceanography, Geography, Geographic Information Systems (GIS), Human Geography, Physical Geography

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Protected areas are marine and terrestrial spaces that include national parks, wilderness areas, community conserved areas, and nature reserves. A protected area is a clearly defined geographic space, which is recognized, dedicated, and managed to conserve its ecosystem.

The designation of protected areas is a response to habitat loss and fragmentation caused by human activities. Protected areas are used to conserve ecosystems and the biodiversity therein.

These reserves also aid humans. Protected areas provide food, clean water, medicines, protection from natural disasters, and mitigations against damages from climate change.

Roughly 15 percent of the planet’s land and seven percent of its oceans are designated as a protected area. Protected areas are not stagnant, however, and are planned to be increased up to 30 percent by 2030 and 50 percent by 2050.

The World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) is a global database of marine and terrestrial protected areas used by scientists, businesses, and governments to help inform policy decisions. This dataset was created as a joint project between the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and the United Nations Environment Programme.

This map layer includes only the regions categorized as strictly protected areas (IUCN Categories I-IV). Some protected places may not be present based on the system their home country uses to classify them.

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Clint Parks
Sarah Appleton, National Geographic Society, National Geographic Society
Anita Palmer
Last Updated

June 20, 2024

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