Your browser does not support JavaScript!

IUCN Definitions

Published Jun 21, 2011

A summary of the relationship between GAP Status Codes and IUCN Definitions

This is not a crosswalk between IUCN Categories and GAP Status Codes, but it helps summarize their definitions and relationship.  Only GAP Status Codes 1 and 2 meet the definition of protected by IUCN as, “A clearly defined geographical space, recognized, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values”.

GAP Status Code 3 and 4 lands cannot be assigned an IUCN Category.  While IUCN Ia, Ib, II are more likely to be GAP 1, many of these areas cannot permit natural disturbance events to persist and are GAP 2.  Similarly, there are many IUCN Category III, IV and V protected areas that are managed as GAP 1.  USGS GAP maintains an approved crosswalk to assign IUCN Categories to US protected areas based upon their management designation, landowner, GAP Status Code and size.  Contact Lisa Johnson for the most current version.

IUCN Category/Definition GAP Category/Definition
Category Ia: Strict Nature Reserves are strictly protected areas set aside to protect biodiversity and also possibly geological/geomorphological features, where human visitation, use and impacts are strictly controlled and limited to ensure preservation of the conservation values. Such protected areas can serve as indispensible reference areas for scientific research and monitoring. GAP Status 1: An area having permanent protection from conversion of natural land cover and a mandated management plan in operation to maintain a natural state within which disturbance events (of natural type, frequency, intensity, and legacy) are allowed to proceed without interference or are mimicked through management..
Category Ib: Wilderness Areas are protected areas are usually large unmodified or slightly modified areas, retaining their natural character and influence, without permanent or significant human habitation, which are protected and managed so as to preserve their natural condition.
Category II: National Park protected areas are large natural or near natural areas set aside to protect large-scale ecological processes, along with the complement of species and ecosystems characteristic of the area, which also provide a foundation for environmentally and culturally compatible spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational and visitor opportunities.
Category III: Natural Monument or Feature protected areas are set aside to protect a specfic natural monument, which can be a land form, sea mount, submarine caverns, geological feature such as caves or even a living feature such as an ancient grove. They are generally quite small protected areas and often have high visitor value. GAP Status 2: An area having permanent protection from conversion of natural land cover and a mandated management plan in operation to maintain a primarily natural state, but which may receive uses or management practices that degrade the quality of existing natural communities, including suppression of natural disturbance.
Category IV: Habitat/species management protected areas aim to protect particular species or habitats and management reflects this priority. Many category IV protected areas will need regular, active interventions to address the requirements of particular species or to maintain habitats, but this is not a requirement of this category.
Category V: Protected landscape/seascape protectected areas occur where the interaction of people and nature over time has produced an area of distinct character with significant ecological, biological, cultural and scenic value
Category VI: Protected area with sustainable use of natural resources are generally large, with much of the area in a more-or-less natural condition and wherea a proportion is under sustainable natural resource management and where such exploitation is seen as one of the main aims of the area.
Not applicable GAP Status 3: Area having permanent protection from conversion of natural land cover for the majority of area. Subject to extractive uses of either broad, low-intensity type (eg. Logging) or localized intense type (eg. Mining). Confers protection to federally listed endangered and threatened species throughout the area.
Not applicable GAP Status 4: No known public/private institutional manadates/legally recognized easements.
Permanently unassigned Holdings that do not meet the IUCN definition of a protected area or are not GAP Status 1 or 2.