Legal or equivalent instruments used by countries for the designation of protected and conserved areas

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Prod-ID: DAS-193-en
Published 13 Feb 2020
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Designation types describe and classify the legal instruments or other effective means used to achieve the long-term conservation of nature in protected or other conserved areas. European countries designate protected areas under sub-national, national and EU legislation as well as under international conventions and agreements. The designation types are classified according to three categories (A, B and C) that are linked to the definitions of protected areas and other conserved areas under “other effective area-based conservation measures” (OECMs).

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The definition of a "protected area" is the one adopted by IUCN:
"A clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values."

In addition to "protected areas" according to the IUCN definition, there are other conserved areas adhering to the "other effective area-based conservation measures" (OECMs) definition. The definition of OECMs from the Convention on Biological Diversity is as follows:

"A geographically defined area other than a Protected Area, which is governed and managed in ways that achieve positive and sustained long-term outcomes for the in situ conservation of biodiversity, with associated ecosystem functions and services and where applicable, cultural, spiritual, socio-economic, and other locally relevant values." For more information, see this report.

The information about designation types is used in datasets on protected and other areas, e.g. the Eionet core dataset on nationally designated protected areas which is the European contribution to the World Database on Protected Areas. Designation types are also used for the descriptions of Natura 2000 network and Emerald network sites.

The designation types categories A, B and C are defined as follows:
Category A: Designation types used with the intention to protect fauna, flora, habitats and landscapes (the latter as far as relevant for fauna, flora and for habitat protection);
Category B: Statutes under sectorial, particularly forestry, legislative and administrative acts providing an adequate protection relevant for fauna, flora and habitat conservation;
Category C: Private statute providing durable protection for fauna, flora or habitats.


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