Timeline of events
The information below summarizes the major historical time periods that relate to areas of biodiversity importance, providing information on the major events that took place and when the various areas referred to in the A to Z were established.
‘Early’ protected areas
- Earliest records of governments protecting certain resources: the Emperor of India established protected areas for mammals, birds, fish and forests in 252 BC, and the King of Srivijaya ordered the establishment of a nature reserve on the island of Sumatra in 684 AD.
- Hunting reserves were established, often by royalty, but also by private landowners to ensure that wildlife and their habitats were protected for use, such as the New Forest in the United Kingdom by William the Conqueror in 1079.
‘Modern’ protected areas – increasing efforts at the national level to establish protected areas
- The first ‘modern’ protected areas were established as European settlers arrived in North America and found vast un-spoilt wildernesses. Yosemite was established by the US Congress as the first of a new type of protected area in 1865.
- Yellowstone became the first National Park, being designated by US Congress law in 1872 as ‘a public park or pleasuring ground for the benefit and enjoyment of the people’.
- First protected area agencies: Canada created the world’s first park agency, the Dominion Parks Bureau in 1911, followed by the US National Park Service in 1916.
- First transboundary national park between the USA and Canada, and the first bilateral protected area between Poland and Slovakia, both in 1932.
- Four protected area categories were defined in 1933 at the International Conference for the Protection of Fauna and Flora.
- First formally designated marine protected area in 1935 [Fort Jefferson National Monument, USA]. The main impetus for marine protected areas (MPAs) came later, with the World Parks Congress on National Parks in 1962, and a follow-up meeting in 1982 calling for the incorporation of MPAs into the worldwide network of protected areas.
Protected Areas recognised internationally as an important conservation tool and the start of international multilateral agreements and programmes to raise their profile
- First Conference on National Parks held in 1962, producing the first UN List of Protected Areas, the ‘List of National Parks and Equivalent Reserves’ that amalgamated all of the world’s protected areas. The UN List, composed of the protected areas officially recognized by governments, has now been produced 13 times. The conference also recommended a category system for protected areas, with IUCN formally defining the term ‘National Park’ in 1969.
- World Heritage Convention adopted in 1972 to protect outstanding natural and cultural heritage.
- Ramsar Convention adopted at its namesake in Iran, 1975, began the List of Wetlands of International Importance.
- UNESCO’s Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme developed the concept of Biosphere Reserves in 1974 to protect the environment that people sustainably interact with, and subsequently launched its World Network of Biosphere Reserves in 1976.
- A preliminary categories system for protected areas was developed by IUCN in 1973. IUCN finalized these categories and published its report on them in 1978.
- A study on Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSAs), areas vulnerable to shipping activities, first began in 1978. Discussions on this concept eventually led to the adoption of guidelines in 1991.
- The European Union adopted its Bird Directive in 1979, now replaced by the 2009 version, requiring the establishment of Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for birds.
- International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) set up in 1948 to promote conservation worldwide.
Documentation of expanding protected area systems and assessment of areas that are in need of protection due to the presence of threatened species, high biodiversity or endemism
- IUCN established the Protected Areas Data Unit in 1981 as part of its Conservation Monitoring Centre in the UK and so began the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA).
- First inventory of Important Bird Areas (IBAs) prepared by BirdLife International for the European Commission in 1981.
- The Protocol concerning Specially Protected Areas of Mediterranean Importance (SPAMIs) was adopted in 1982, entering into force in 1984, as part of the Barcelona Convention that protects the Mediterranean Sea against pollution.
- The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) formed in 1967, adopting its Declaration on Heritage Parks and Reserves in 1984 that has been replaced the new 2003 declaration.
- BirdLife International initiated a project to identify key areas for biodiversity conservation in 1987, identifying 221 Endemic Bird Areas (EBAs) in its first analysis published in 1991-1992.
- IUCN broadened their plant conservation project and renamed it Centres of Plant Diversity: A Guide and Strategy for their Conservation in 1988. The first volume of these areas was published in 1994.
- Conservation International (CI) adopted the term biodiversity hotspots in 1989, based on Norman Myers’ concept developed in 1988. An extensive review led to the current criteria for the hotspots in 1999/2000.
Global acceptance of the importance of biodiversity with the adoption of the Convention on Biological Diversity, and continual development of global prioritisation areas and biodiversity concepts
- The Convention on Biological Diversity was adopted in 1992 that called for Parties to establish national systems of protected areas to conserve biological diversity. The CBD now includes a Programme of Work on Protected Areas.
- Similar to Special Protection Areas (SPAs) under the Birds Directive, the Habitats Directive, adopted in 1992, requires the designation of Special Areas of Conservation (SACs). Together SPAs and SACs form Natura 2000, an ecological network of protected areas in the territory of the EU.
- Plantlife International developed the concept of Important Plant Areas (IPAs)in 1995 to highlight areas with high botanical diversity, threatened species, endemism and values, publishing criteria for their identification in 2001.
- The Emerald Network was launched in 1996 by the Council Of Europe as part of its work under the Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats (Bern Convention). Natura 2000 is the EU’s contribution to the Emerald Network.
- The World Resources Institute (WRI) developed criteria to determine frontier forests-large forested areas with few roads or modern settlements, beginning its assessment in 1996, and publishing its work in 1997. These were later developed in 2005 and renamed as Intact Forest Landscape (IFL).
- The Megadiversity concept was created by Conservation International in an attempt to prioritize conservation efforts worldwide, with the identification of 17 Megadiversity countries in 1998.
- WWF assessed the world’s ecoregions in 1998, identifying the Global 200, the most biological distinct terrestrial, freshwater and marine ecoregions.
- PAN Parks Foundation set up to protect Europe’s wilderness in 1999, having started in 1997 as a WWF project.
- The concept of a High Conservation Value Area, the natural habitat area required to maintain or enhance a High Conservation Value, was developed by the Forest Stewardship Council for use in forest management, and first published in 1999.
Recognition of the oldest types of protected areas, and the designation of multiple areas that need protection to halt imminent and irreversible loss
- The term ‘Crisis Ecoregions’ was coined in 2000 to classify highly threatened habitats where substantial, irreversible and irreplaceable loss of biodiversity is likely if there is no intervention.
- The Last of the Wild analysis, representing the 10% wildest areas remaining in each biome, was first performed in 2002, with a subsequent version in 2005, by the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN).
- High Biodiversity Wilderness Areas, identified by Conservation International in 2002/03, have retained at least 70% of their original vegetation intact, have high biodiversity and are inhabited by indigenous communities.
- The World Parks Congress formally defined Community Conserved Areas (CCAs) in 2003, despite such areas being the earliest known protected areas. The term has now been expanded to encompass indigenous areas (ICCAs).
- A joint initiative of over 50 biodiversity conservation organizations, the Alliance for Zero Extinction, formed in 2003, aims to prevent extinctions by identifying and safeguarding sites where species are in immediate danger of disappearing.
- Key Biodiversity Areas (KBAs) are sites of global significance for biodiversity, using globally standard criteria and thresholds and compiled from numerous conservation datasets, a concept first discussed at the World Parks Congress in 2003, with a framework and criteria proposed in 2004.
- Sacred Natural Sites (SNS), an early form of protected areas, were discussed in detail at the World Parks Congress, 2003. Defined in 2006 as natural areas of special spiritual significance to peoples and communities.
- Referring to the areas in the deep and open ocean, criteria on Ecologically and Biologically Significant Areas were adopted by the Convention on Biological Diversity in 2008, although the term has been used since 2004.