The enlisting of protected areas is the fundamental strategy being used towards the world’s natural environment and biodiversity.
The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has developed the Protected Area Management Categories System to define record and classify the wide variety of specific aims and concerns when categorizing protected areas and their objectives.
This categorization method is recognized on a global scale by national governments and international bodies such as the United Nations and the Convention on Biological Diversity.
Category Ia- Strict Nature Reserve
Strict Nature Reserves are areas which are protected from all but light human use in order to preserve the geological and geomorphical features of the region and its biodiversity. These areas are often home to dense native ecosystems that are stricted from all human disturbances outside of scientific study, environmental monitoring and education. Because these areas are so strictly protected, they provide ideal pristine environment by which external human influence can be measured.
In some cases Strict Nature Reserves are of spiritual significance for surrounding communities and the areas are also protected for this reason. The people engaged in the practice of their faith within the region have the right to continue to do so providing it aligns with the areas conservation and management objectives.
Category Ib- Wilderness Area
Wilderness Areas are generally larger and protected in a slightly less stringent manner than that of Strict Nature Reserves.
These areas are protected domain in which biodiversity and ecosystem processes (including evolution) are allowed to flourish or experience restoration if previously disturbed by human activity. These are areas which may buffer against the effects of climate change and protect threatened species and ecological communities.
Category II- National Park
National Parks bear similar characteristics to that of Wilderness Areas with regards to size and the main objectives of protecting functioning ecosystems; however National Parks tend to be more lenient with human visitation and its supporting infrastructure. National Parks are managed in a way that may contribute to local economies through promoting educational and recreational tourism on a scale that will not reduce the effectiveness of conservation efforts.
The surrounding areas of a National Park may be for consumptive or non-consumptive use, but should nevertheless act as a barrier for the defense of the protected areas native species and communities to enable them to sustain themselves in the long term.
Pulag National Park Tirad Pass National Park
Category III- Natural Monument or Feature
Category III represents comparatively smaller areas that are specifically allocated to protect a natural monument and its surrounding habitats. These monuments can be natural in the wholest sense, or include elements that have been influenced or introduced by humans. The latter should hold biodiversity associations or could otherwise be classified as a historical or spiritual site, though this distinction can be quite difficult to ascertain.
Natural Monument or Feature often play a smaller but key ecological role in the operations broader conservation activities. They have a high cultural or spiritual value which can be utilized to gain support of conservation challenges by allowing higher visitation or recreational rights, therefore offering an incentive for the preservation of the site.
Chocolate Hills “Gruta do LagoAzul” (Blue Lake Cave)
Category IV- Habitat Species Management Area
The Galápagos, Ecuador is managed under category IV to preserve the Islands’ native flora and fauna.
flora and fauna Galápagos marine iguana
Category IV, like Category III focuses on more specific areas of conservation (though size is not necessarily a distinguishing feature), but in relation to an identifiable species or habitat that requires continuous protection rather than that of a natural feature. These protected areas will be sufficiently controlled to ensure the maintenance, conservation and restoration of particular species and habitats- possibly through traditional means- and public education of such areas us widely encouraged as part of the management objectives.
Category V- Protected Landscape/ Seascape
Protected Landscapes/ Seascapes cover a entire bodies of land or ocean with a more explicit management plan in the interest of nature conservation, but is more likely to include a range of for-profit activities. The main objective is to safeguard regions that have built up a ‘distinct character’ in regards to their ecological, biological, cultural or scenic value. In contrast with previous categories, Protected Landscapes and Seascapes allow a higher level of interaction with surrounding communities who are able to contribute to the areas management and engage with the natural and cultural heritage it embodies through a sustainable outlook.
Landscapes and Seascapes that fall into this category should represent an integral balance between people and nature, and sustain activities such as traditional agricultural and forestry systems on conditions that ensure the continued protection or restoration of the area.