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2010 World Database on Protected Areas Annual Release

Downloading the WDPA Annual Release

In order to download the WDPA Annual Release you need to register with the WDPA. Please click here to go to the registration page. If already a registered WDPA User, please log in.

Why is there an Annual Release of the WDPA Dataset?

The WDPA is a work in progress, continually being updated once new information becomes available. Each year UNEP-WCMC, under the principles of the Conservation Commons2, prepares and releases a global GIS3 dataset of protected areas. This static version contains all data improvements made to the WDPA (up to and including March 31 2010) since the previous annual release.

The annual release serves the global conservation community by providing a standard dataset of our current knowledge of protected areas globally. This dataset acts as a resource for NGOs, researchers, universities and government agencies through supporting and strengthening conservation studies, research and decision making. It is also widely utilised by the private sector. In order to download the WDPA, you need to be a registered user (registration is free). Downloads of the WDPA and the Annual Release 2010 is primarily for non-commercial users; however commercial users may contact UNEP-WCMC directly via to discuss access. Commercial requests for this data will not be unreasonably withheld.

What is in the WDPA Annual Release?

The Annual Release includes all nationally designated (e.g. National Parks, Nature Reserves) and internationally recognized protected areas (e.g. UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Ramsar Wetlands of International Importance) currently held in the WDPA, up to end of March 2010. This static version incorporates all data improvements made to the WDPA since the previous annual release.

The annual release dataset is distributed in a GIS file format known as shapefiles (.shp) and GIS capable software is therefore required to view these files. For registered WDPA users without specialised knowledge of GIS or the use of GIS-capable software, data can also be accessed as .kml files, viewable with Google Earth by using the search engine at However downloads are limited to per country level.

In those cases where a protected area boundary has not been mapped (delineated), or the boundary files are unavailable, centre point (geographic) locations are used in the WDPA. Therefore this release will contain both polygon (boundary) and point (geographic location) shapefiles representing the available information. Accompanying (and contained within) the shapefiles is an attribute table that contains key fields of information about the protected areas stored in the WDPA.
To view the list of attributes and a description of them please click here.
Registered users will be able to download the following
1. Global dataset (national and international protected areas) as a single polygon and point shapefile.

2. Subsets of the global dataset. Due to the size of this dataset and recognizing that not all users will require the whole dataset, the following subsets are available:
  1. All Nationally designated protected areas only (polygon and points)
  2. All Internationally recognized areas only (polygon and points)
  3. All marine protected areas only (polygons and points)

With every shapefile there is a separate table (.dbf) that contains source information (metadata) for every site as well as the 2010 WDPA Annual Release Attribute Data Structure document. All shapefiles use the WGS84 (Geographic) projection. Also, there are overlaps in sites between subset datasets, so depending on your interest you may not need to download all the available datasets.

Where publishing or licensing restrictions exist, it is not always possible for the WDPA to include or distribute data for certain countries.

What have been the major changes since the 2009 WDPA Annual Release?

Redeveloped in 2008 as a web-enabled spatial database platform, the WDPA is a foremost example of free and open-access data sharing. In line with the Principles of the Conservation Commons Initiative, development has continued in 2009 to standardize and improve access and integration of the WDPA.

In 2009, we expanded our data acquisition tasks by actively engaging data providers in memorandums of understanding for data exchange (MoUs) and data improvement workshops. Workshops and joint data improvement activities occurred as a cross-programmatic achievement within UNEP-WCMC and focused on developing countries where there are high biodiversity priorities and where good coverage or protected areas is lacking in the WDPA. These activities included a Latin American Information Systems workshop; workshops with the Tanzanian Forestry and Bee Keeping Division and members of the Chinese Research Academy of Environmental Sciences (CRAES), and a regional workshop in Asia on "Enhancing the quality of protected area data in the WDPA".

    Specific Data Improvements:
  • Complete updates of spatial and attribute data for multiple countries including Belgium, Belize, Bolivia, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Democratic Republic of Congo, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Gibraltar, Greece, Guatemala, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Portugal, Romania, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden and Tanzania.
  • Partial updates achieved for Antarctica (South Orkney High Seas MPA), Brazil (Indigenous areas), Cameroon (forestry polygons), China (Jiangxi Province) Kenya (updated polygons), New Zealand (marine reserves), Uruguay (updated polygons), USA (updated all terrestrial Pas with the USGS Protected Areas Dataset PADUS v.1) and Vietnam (updated polygons).
  • Improvements to international sites included a review and update of RAMSAR, Man and the Biosphere Reserves and World Heritage Sites.
  • World Heritage Sites now include both English Name and French Name.
    Technological Updates:
  • We have expanded our data server locations to Asia, East and West US seaboards and Europe.
  • Building upon recent successes, the WDPA team is now hard at work to prepare a new database portal on the internet that will revolutionise how we visualise, measure and engage with partners and the general public. The new initiative called, Protected Planet, is due to be launched in 2010, the International Year of Biodiversity in Nagoya Japan at the Convention on Biological Diversity's 10th Conference of the Parties.
    Quality Assurance:
  • Implementation of a WDPA Data Standard included the simplification and standardization of attribute information stored in the WDPA. There are now 20 fields in the attribute table down from 44 last year.
  • Thanks to the review and notification of a multitude of users we are able to continually review and rid the data of introduced errors, such as incorrect area figures, misspelled names, missing negative longitudes and other errors that might be missed by our validation.
  • All NULL values or inconsistent reporting values such as, ‘Not known’ versus ‘Unknown’ were removed from attribute fields and replaced with ‘Not Reported’
  • All duplicates have been removed from within the WDPA Polygons layer.
  • All areas have been recalculated in square kilometers (from hectares)
  • Country names and sub-national division names are reported through International Office of Standards (ISO) Codes 3166-1 and 3166-2 respectively.
  • Russian source information has been updated to reflect the new Ministry of Environment Department.
  • Corrections have been made to area figures for sites in Cyprus, India, Jordan, Mexico, Spain and several Biosphere Reserves
  • For United States protected areas, designations have been removed from the name fields so that only the name is now showing in this field.
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