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Malolotja nature reserve, Swaziland © Roger P. Ellis

IUCN Category IV - Habitat / Species Management Area

Areas for the protection of particular species or habitats

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This category refers to areas that are managed to protect particular species or habitats. Many will need regular, active interventions to address the requirements of particular species or to maintain habitats, but this is not a requirement of the category. The primary objective of protected areas in this category is to maintain, conserve and restore species and habitats.1


Supported by

Developed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) with support of the World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) and other international institutions such as the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and assigned by national governments


Year of creation


Not applicable



Category IV protected areas usually help to protect, or restore flora and fauna species of international, national or local importance; including resident or migratory fauna; and/or habitats. The size of the area varies but can often be relatively small; this is however not a distinguishing feature. As these protected areas often include fragments of an ecosystem, they may not be self-sustaining and will require regular and active management interventions to ensure the survival of specific habitats and/or to meet the requirements of particular species. A number of approaches are suitable:1

  • Protection of particular species : to protect particular target species, which will usually be under threat (e.g., one of the last remaining populations);
  • Protection of habitats : to maintain or restore habitats, which will often be fragments of ecosystems;
  • Active management to maintain target species : to maintain viable populations of particular species, which might include for example artificial habitat creation or maintenance (such as artificial reef creation), supplementary feeding or other active management systems;
  • Active management of natural or semi-natural ecosystems : to maintain natural or semi-natural habitats that are either too small or too profoundly altered to be self-sustaining, e.g., if natural herbivores are absent they may need to be replaced by livestock or manual cutting; or if hydrology has been altered this may necessitate artificial drainage or irrigation;
  • Active management of culturally-defined ecosystems : to maintain cultural management systems where these have a unique associated biodiversity. Continual intervention is needed because the ecosystem has been created or at least substantially modified by management. The primary aim of management is maintenance of associated biodiversity.


These areas are managed to maintain or restore certain species and/or habitats, and this can be carried out by a range of actors depending on the governance type of the area (see factsheet IUCN Protected Area categories for information on governance types). These are often areas that have already undergone substantial modification, where a high degree of human pressure often exists, and significant management intervention is necessary.


Business relevance:

Legal and compliance – The classification of a category IV protected area requires that such areas are managed for conservation by legal or other effective means, and therefore legal recognition and protection at the national or sub-national level is likely to be present in these sites. The level of legal protection will however vary between countries, and will depend on the governance type of the area, as they receive differing levels of recognition by government in different countries. Nonetheless a number of national laws are likely to apply to these sites that deter large-scale economic activities in order to maintain the conservation values of these areas.

As designated protected areas, these sites receive international attention and have been incorporated into a number of environmental safeguard standards. These include those of multilateral financial institutions including the World Bank2, the International Finance Corporation3, the European Investment Bank4, the Asian Development Bank5, the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development6 and the Inter-American Development Bank7. Such standards often require that project activities do not take place within these areas unless they do not adversely impact the area and are compatible with the conservation aims of the protected area. In cases where projects are eligible for funding, additional requirements often apply, including consultation with and informed consent by stakeholders and managers, as well as the implementation of additional programs to enhance the conservation aims of the protected area. These standards refer to those that have been designated as well as areas officially proposed for protection.

In addition, a number of sector specific safeguard standards refer to protected areas, many of which are related to certification programs, including the Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels (RSB) that declares categories III and IV as ‘high-risk’ areas8, as well as the standards of the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM)9 and the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC)10 that requires members to identify and respect legally protected areas. Protected areas form one of the values of the High Conservation Value (HCV) approach and are therefore included in a number of certification programmes and standards that adopt this approach requiring that such values are maintained or enhanced. These include the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil (RSPO)11, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)12, the Round Table on Responsible Soy Association (RTRS)13 and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA)14.

Biodiversity – Category IV areas are important for their role in ‘plugging the gaps’ in conservation strategies by protecting key species or habitats in ecosystems. It provides a management approach for areas that have already undergone substantial modification, necessitating protection of remaining fragments for identified target species with or without intervention.

Socio-cultural – Category IV areas as not usually associated with human presence and intervention. Nonetheless, some small-scale activities and human presence may exist within these areas, and many will hold some cultural values with an aim to protect biodiversity.



  • Protected Planet is a tool for visualizing, mapping and contributing to information on protected areas. This includes information on the IUCN category where known. Protected Planet brings together spatial data, descriptive information and images from the World Database on Protected Areas, the Global Biodiversity Information Facility (GBIF), WikipediaTM, PanaramioTM, FlickrTM, and Google MapsTM.
  • The Integrated Biodiversity Assessment Tool (IBAT) for business provides a visualisation and GIS download tool for protected areas, including the IUCN category where known.


  1. Dudley, N. (Editor) (2008). Guidelines for Applying Protected Area Management Categories. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. x + 86pp.
  2. World Bank (2001) Operational Policy 4.04: Natural Habitats. World Bank, Washington, DC, U.S.A.
  3. IFC (2012) Performance Standard 6: Biodiversity Conservation and Sustainable Natural Resource Management. International Finance Corporation, Washington, DC.
  4. EIB (2009) Statement of Environmental and Social Principles and Standards. European Investment Bank, Luxembourg.
  5. ADB (2009) Safeguard Policy Statement. Asian Development Bank, Manila, Philippines.
  6. EBRD (2008) Environmental and Social Policy. European Bank for Reconstruction and Development, London.
  7. IDB (2006) Environment and Safeguards Compliance Policy. Inter-American Development Bank , Washington, DC, U.SA.
  8. RSB. (2009) Annex to the Guidelines for Environmental and Social Impact Assessment, Stakeholder Mapping and Community Consultation Specific to the Biofuels Sector- Ecosystem and Conservation Specialist. Version 1.0. Roundtable on Sustainable Biofuels, Lausanne, Switzerland.
  9. ARM (2010) Fairtrade and fairmined standard for gold from artisanal and small-scale mining including associated precious metals. Alliance for Responsible Mining Foundation, Antioquia, Colombia.
  10. RJC (2009) Responsible Jewellery Council Standards Guidance. The Responsible Jewellery Council. London, U.K.
  11. RSPO (2007) RSPO Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Palm Oil Production. Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, Selangor, Malaysia.
  12. FSC (2002) FSC Principles and Criteria for Forest Stewardship version 4. Forest Stewardship Council, Powys, U.K.
  13. RTRS. (2010) RTRS Standard for Responsible Soy Production Version 1.0. The Round Table on Responsible Soy, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
  14. CCBA. (2008) Climate, Community & Biodiversity Project Design Standards Second Edition. The Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance, Arlington, VA, U.S.A.


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