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Transboundary Protected Areas (TBPA)

Protected areas, or series of, that traverse national boundaries

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IUCN defines a Transboundary Protected Area as: “ an area of land and/or sea that straddles one or more borders between states, sub-national units such as provinces and regions, autonomous areas and/or areas beyond the limit of national sovereignty or jurisdiction, whose constituent parts are especially dedicated to the protection and maintenance of biological diversity, and of natural and associated cultural resources, and managed cooperatively through legal or other effective means”.1

Transboundary Protected Areas can however include a wide variety of different approaches that can fall into any of the following typologies:

  • Two or more contiguous protected areas across a national boundary
  • A cluster of protected areas and the intervening land
  • A cluster of separated protected areas without intervening land
  • A trans-border area including proposed protected areas
  • A protected area in one country aided by sympathetic land use over the border

Other terminology:

  • Other terms for TBPAs that are used in literature include ‘transboundary parks’, ‘transfrontier parks’, ‘cross-border parks’, ‘transfrontier protected area complexes’. This list is not exhaustive.
  • IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas’ (WCPA) Transboundary Conservation Specialist Group adopted four types of transboundary conservation practice.2 TBPAs are recognised as one type of transboundary conservation initiatives. The other three types are: Peace for Parks, Transboundary Conservation and Development Areas, and Transboundary Migratory Corridors.
  • In addition to the suggested 4 types of transboundary conservation initiatives, there are two designations which can be superimposed on any combination of the 4 types: Transboundary World Heritage Sites and Transboundary Biosphere Reserves, following UNESCO’s criteria.

Supported by

International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)


Year of creation



Global in extent. The 2007 global inventory of TBPAs and other sites not necessarily adjacent but linked by various transboundary conservation initiatives, identified 227 TBPA complexes incorporating 3,043 individual protected areas or internationally designated sites (UNEP-WCMC).3



For an area of land and/or sea to be considered as TBPA, according to the IUCN:
- It has to conform to the IUCN definition of a protected area;
- It has to traverse one or more international or sub-national borders, and/or areas beyond limits of national jurisdiction;
- There has to be some form of cooperative management.

EUROPARC Federation developed a set of criteria under which it evaluates and certifies TBPAs that straddle international borders in Europe.4 This programme is named ‘Following Nature’s Design’.



TBPAs are managed cooperatively between two or more countries or the national sub-units. Cooperation can range from communication with basic information sharing to full cooperation with joint decision making. TBPAs are protected areas, which mean they are managed according to a designated IUCN Protected Area Management Category in the concerned country. Cooperative and coordinated management of TBPAs includes greater efficiency in terms of finances and human resources, as well as more dynamic problem solving.


Business relevance:

Legal and compliance – Although there is no international designation or convention that sets up TBPAs, there are many types of laws that can play a role in their establishment and management including the international law, national and sub-national policy, law and regulations, and traditional law. Cooperative agreements can be formal (based on multi-lateral agreement, memorandum of understanding, regional mechanism, international convention) or more economic, informal (representation in each other’s advisory board, friendly collaboration between managers etc).

Biodiversity – TBPAs are of significant biodiversity importance as large protected areas, which are effective for allowing greater migration of species, especially fauna, maintenance of landscape connections, where animals, plants, and ecological processes, including the human being, can move freely from one habitat to another. TBPAs are also important for adapting to climate change by linking landscapes and allowing ecological processes to take place in fragmented ecosystems. TBPAs allow for greater control of pest species or alien invasive species, poaching and illegal trade across boundaries, reintroduction of large species.

Socio-cultural – Socio-cultural aspects of TBPAs are considered of primary importance by IUCN and the use of participatory, inclusive approaches to integrate and agree on issues relating to local communities is an important aspect of success of transboundary conservation. IUCN suggests that TBPA planners and managers should: ‘work together with communities from the beginning, incorporating their objectives in transboundary conservation plans; strive to provide security to people in every sense; support actions with healing effects on communities divided by boundaries; and support strengthening of local institutions and cultures’.1



Not applicable



  1. Sandwith, T., Shine, C., Hamilton, L., and Sheppard, D. (2001) Transboundary Protected Areas for Peace and Cooperation. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK
  2. Lockwood, M., Worboys, G., Kothari, a. (2006) Managing Protected Areas. Earthscan: London, UK.
  3. UNEP-WCMC Global List of TBPAs 2007
  4. EUROPARC Federation
  5. Braack, L., Sandwith, T., Peddle, D., Petermann, T. (2006) Security Considerations in the Planning and Management of Transboundary Conservation Areas. IUCN, Gland, Switzerland and Cambridge, UK
  6. Mittermeier, Russell A., Cyril F. Kormos, Cristina Goettsch Mittermeier, Patricio Robles Gil, Trevor Sandwith, and Charles Besancon (2005) Transboundary Conservation: A New Vision for Protected Areas. CEMEX-Agrupacion Sierra Madre-Conservation International, Mexico, 372 pp.
  7. The Global Transboundary Protected Area Network provides information on TBPAs, including case study examples
  8. Peace Parks Foundation


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