An encouraging sign for the conservation of biodiversity in recent years has been the establishment of thousands of protected areas around the world including tens of million of square kilometres of marine protected areas. One might say that establishing protected areas has become easier than in the past as nations scramble to meet their commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity. The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) defines a protected area:
A protected area is a clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.Protected area categories range from strict nature reserves to areas with sustainable use of natural resources.
Regardless of the category, managing protected areas can be a formidable task. Since the establishment of Yellowstone National Park in the USA in 1872, some protected areas have even lost animal and plant species as they face complicated challenges from within and outside the protected area. Invasive species, instream flow withdrawals, pollution, poaching, human encroachment, unsustainable take, inadequate boundaries and much more plague the management of protected areas. Underlying the above concerns, is often the lack of a protected area management plan that binds current and future managers and stakehoders to goals, objectives, standards and guidelines for the protected area.
The manner in which protected areas are planned, developed, implemented and adpated is essential to their success. The Pacific Islands are unique in their culture and geography and as such, particular management styles have been developed in the region that work well. This is mainly due to the fact that they integrate with the local culture, reviving traditions and capitilizing on exisiting knoweldge and expertise.
This section provides various resources on the nature and development of management plans for protected areas and other related information.