The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), defines a protected area as:
a clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long term conservation of nature.
Why are protected areas important?
Protected areas throughout the world perform many functions. They are essential for conserving biodiversity, and for delivering vital ecosystem services, such as protecting watersheds and soils and shielding human communities from natural disasters. Many protected areas are important to local communities. They are places for people to get a sense of peace in a busy world - places that invigorate human spirits and challenge the senses. Protected landscapes embody important cultural values; some of them reflect sustainable land use practices. They are important also for research and education, and contribute significantly to local and regional economies, most obviously from tourism and recreation.