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The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) lists seven protection categories for different areas that serve to protect the natural environment and biodiversity.

Is there any international database listing all areas worldwide with their category and exact boundaries (i.e. a polygon of the boundaries, rather than just a single location)? Perhaps as a layer loadable in Google Maps or Google Earth, or on a separate map application like the US Wilderness map.

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I believe you will find what you are looking for at the Global Landcover Facility (though a little dated - 2007).

http://staff.glcf.umd.edu/sns/branch/htdocs.sns/data/wdpa/

As a member of the IUCN, the GLCF provides the World Database on Protected Areas for free to the world. This data set contains GIS layers of protected areas that were produced by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)'s World Conservation Monitoring Centre (WCMC). The 2007 data set includes protected areas recognized at the international and national levels. Data are provided as point or polygon shapefiles.

  • That looks interesting. Do you know if anyone has used these files to visualise it in a more accessible manner? – gerrit Mar 18 '15 at 16:32
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Protectedplanet.net comes pretty close to what I'm looking for. It's a layer on top of Google Maps that does show protected areas in various shades of green, giving detailed information upon closer inspection. Information is probably not complete and it takes a few more clicks to distinguish different levels of protection than I would like, but it's still a very interesting resource that goes very far into what I was looking for in the question.

Screenshot Protected Planet
Screenshot Protected Planet, taken 2015-12-07.

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Protected Planet hosts the World Database on Protected Areas. The database contains a field "IUCN_CAT" field which contains the 7 categories that you are looking for, though many PAs have "Not Reported" those data. The WDPA database is global in scale, includes marine/terrestrial protected areas, and can be downloaded in multiple formats. Download the KML which will display easily using Google Earth, or other formats if you have QGIS software.

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