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Fernando de Noronha, Brazil © Andras Janscik

IUCN Category V - Protected Landscape / Seascape

An area with significant ecological, biological, cultural and scenic value

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These are defined by IUCN as “ areas where the interaction of people and nature over time has produced an area of distinct character with significant ecological, biological, cultural and scenic value and where safeguarding the integrity of this interaction is vital to protecting and sustaining the area and its associated nature conservation and other values ”.1 The primary objective of protected areas in this category is to protect and sustain important landscapes/seascapes and the associated nature conservation and other values created by interactions with humans through traditional management practices.


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





These should have the following essential characteristics:1

  • Landscape and/or coastal and island seascape of high and/or distinct scenic quality and with significant associated habitats, flora and fauna and associated cultural features;
  • A balanced interaction between people and nature that has endured over time and still has integrity, or where there is reasonable hope of restoring that integrity;
  • Unique or traditional land-use patterns, e.g., as evidenced in sustainable agricultural and forestry systems and human settlements that have evolved in balance with their landscape.

The following are desirable characteristics:

  • Opportunities for recreation and tourism consistent with life style and economic activities;
  • Unique or traditional social organizations, as evidenced in local customs, livelihoods and beliefs;
  • Recognition by artists of all kinds and in cultural traditions (now and in the past);
  • Potential for ecological and/or landscape restoration.

Some category V protected areas act as a buffer around a core of one or more strictly protected areas, and some act as linking habitats between several other protected areas.



Management of these areas can be carried out by a range of actors depending on the governance type of the area (see factsheet “Protected Areas”: for information on governance types). A high degree of human intervention is to be expected within these areas, including agriculture and forestry, although these practices should be traditional and sustainable systems of land-use. The people that live there and manage the land are therefore the stewards of these protected areas. Unlike category VI, the emphasis in these areas is on maintaining or restoring traditional management practices along with the natural systems with which they co-exist.


Business relevance:

Legal and compliance – The classification of a category V 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, as well as those under the protection of traditional and local people.

In addition, a number of sector specific safeguard standards refer to protected areas, many of which are related to certification programs, including the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM)8 and the Responsible Jewellery Council (RJC)9 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)10, the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)11, the Round Table on Responsible Soy Association (RTRS)12 and the Climate, Community and Biodiversity Alliance (CCBA)13.

Biodiversity – The biodiversity importance of category V areas is due to the important role they play in conservation at the landscape/seascape scale, particularly as part of a mosaic of management patterns, protected area designations and other conservation mechanisms. Category V areas are important for conservation of species or habitats that have evolved with interactions with people and can only survive if those are maintained.

Socio-cultural – Evidence of traditional land use patterns is a key criterion for category V areas, and therefore these areas will hold certain socio-cultural values, largely that of resource use by local people such as sustainable forestry and agriculture. Human settlements are very likely to be present as a key characteristic of these areas is a long-history of interaction between people and their environment.



  • 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, U.S.A.
  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, U.K.
  7. IDB (2006) Environment and Safeguards Compliance Policy. Inter-American Development Bank , Washington, DC, U.S.A.
  8. 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.
  9. RJC (2009) Responsible Jewellery Council Standards Guidance. The Responsible Jewellery Council. London, U.K.
  10. RSPO (2007) RSPO Principles and Criteria for Sustainable Palm Oil Production. Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil, Selangor, Malaysia.
  11. FSC (2002) FSC Principles and Criteria for Forest Stewardship version 4. Forest Stewardship Council, Powys, U.K.
  12. RTRS. (2010) RTRS Standard for Responsible Soy Production Version 1.0. The Round Table on Responsible Soy, Buenos Aires, Argentina.
  13. 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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