Proposed features/Key:protected area

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Protected Areas
Status: Draft (under way)
Proposed by: Tago
Tagging: protected_area=*
Applies to: Areas, Relations
Definition: Areas where nature, resources or objects of sociopolitical interest are protected.
Rendered as: none
Drafted on: 2012-11-18

This is a proposal for mapping protected areas. It is related to the document boundary=protected_area, but instead of marking protected areas with a combination of boundary=protected_area and protect_class=* this proposal suggests to use a new key protected_area=*. No key boundary=* shall be required.

There shall be a hierarchy of values for the key protected_area=*. In the first hierarchy level the only value is yes, which marks a protected area without being specific about its category. The next hierarchy level consists of the values nature, resource and sociopolitical. The third hierarchy level is even more specific about the protected area's category. Examples for the values are listed in the tables below.

The intention of this proposal is not to completely replace the pattern defined in boundary=protected_area. It just changes the things explained on this page. For additional keys like protection_title etc. or to which IUCN level a certain category belongs or other details please see there.


Value Description
yes Areas where nature, resources or objects of sociopolitical interest are protected: national parks, water protection areas, heritage sites, indigenous areas, ...

protected_area=yes is the most generic way of marking a protected area. If possible use one of the more specific values listed in the tables below.

Value Description
nature Protected nature and landscape: national parks, nature reserves, marine protection areas, ...
resource Protected areas with a focus on certain natural resources: water protection areas, erosion protection areas, ...
sociopolitical Important sociopolitical interests: heritage sites, indigenous areas, sacred areas, ...

The above values are very general. If possible use one of the more specific values from the tables below.

Values subordinated to nature:

Value Description IUCN level Examples
nature_reserve_strict Strictly protected: Strictly protected areas which are strictly controlled and limited; can serve as indispensable reference areas for scientific research and monitoring. 1 (1a) Nature reserve Florarna in Sweden.
nature_reserve_wilderness Wilderness area: Usually large unmodified or slightly modified areas, retaining their natural character and influence within permanent or significant human habitation. 1 (1b) Bolshoi Arkticheskiy nature reserve on nothsibirien peninsula Taimyr.
nature_reserve Similar to nature_reserve_strict and nature_reserve_wilderness but without being specific about whether it belongs to IUCN level 1a or 1b. 1 Nature reserve Florarna in Sweden.
Bolshoi Arkticheskiy nature reserve on nothsibirien peninsula Taimyr.
national_park National park: Large natural or near natural areas set aside to protect large scale ecological processes. 2 Yellowstone (USA), Watten Sea (Europe), ...
national_monument Natural monument or feature: Protection of a specific natural monument, which can be a landform, sea mount, submarine cavern, geological feature such as a cave or even a living feature such as an ancient grove. They are generally quite small protected areas and often have high visitor value. Culturally and archaeologically important. 3 Victoria Falls (Africa), ...
habitat Habitat/species management area: Area for protecting particular species or habitats and management reflects this priority. Many protected areas of this category will need regular, active interventions. 4 Nature reserve, Naturschutzgebiet, ...
habitat_locally_protected Habitat or species management area which is locally protected: similar to habitat but without IUCN level.
Some habitats don't belong to an IUCN level. Instead they are protected by local- or district-law: Areas to protect one species, special cover of vegetation, geological sites, ...
- Recreation Site, Natural Area, Geschützer Biotop, Naturdenkmal, ...
landscape Protected landscape/seascape: Area where the interaction of people and nature over time has produced an area of distinct character with significant, ecological, biological, cultural and scenic assets. 5 Landscape protection, Naturparks like "Lüneburger Heide", Harz, ...
sustainable Protected area with sustainable use of natural resources: Areas where a proportion is under sustainable natural resource management and where low-level non-industrial use of natural resources compatible with nature conservation is seen as one of the main aims of the area. The aim is to conserve ecosystems and habitats together with associated cultural assets and traditional natural resource management systems. They are generally large, with most of the area in a natural condition. 6 Examples: Tonda Wildlife Management Area (Papua New Guinea), ...
continental_agreement Protected by continental agreements. They often cover sites already protected by national law. - Asia: ASEAN Heritage, Europe: Smaragd-Network of the European Council, "Natura 2000" (FFH, Birdareas), European greenbelt, ...
international_convention Protected by interstate- or international conventions. They often cover sites already protected by national law. A cross-border Nationalpark with IUCN level should belong to value national_park. - World Heritage Convention, UNESCO-MAB Reserve, Wetlands of International Importance ("Ramsar"), ... or the "Barcelona Convention" by states bordering the Mediterranean Sea. African - Eurasian Migratory Waterbird Agreement (AEWA), ...
nature One out of the above categories without further specification. Useful if category not yet known.

Values subordinated to resource:

Value Description
soil Soil: crop yield, erosion protection, ...
water Water: water protection area, fresh water, drinking water, springs, ...
climate_and_air Climate and air: gasper supply/cold air, ...
for emission-, immission control in OSM existent, see "Low Emission Zone" (LEZ)
species Species: no fishing, protected for fishery, protected for hunting, plants, ...
location_condition Location condition: Floodwater retention area, protection forest, grazing land, ...
longtime_hazard Longtime hazard area: Contamination, earth-moving area, "problem sites", ...
resource One out of the above categories without further specification or not yet classified. Protected areas of IUCN level -999 belong here, with the exception of indigenous areas with IUCN -999, which should be categorized as political (see below).

Values subordinated to sociopolitical:

Value Description
community_life Community life: religious, sacred areas, associative locations, recreation
cultural_assets Cultural assets (cultural assets and - efforts, districts historical heritage, monument conservation):
protection of sites with special architecture or historic interest, designed and created intentionally by man: urban layout, buildings, landscape, gardens, art-goods, ...
economic Protection in favor of economics: special economic zones, ...
political Political protection:
reservation / indigenous area / aborigine: self-governing communities with land + indigenous
state-boundaries: in OSM existent, see "boundary=administrative". ...
military Military areas: Military refuges, test area,
with regard to contents its right, but in OSM it's already in use with the key military=*.
historic Historic: For colonial-stuff and protectorates. Otherwise like erstwhile-, former- or ancient-protected areas please better use cultural_assets.
(public_land) Public land: Public ground owned by Government entity (see discussion: It is no guaranty for protection, it's an owner-info!).
sociopolitical One out of the above categories without further specification or not yet classified.


Though this proposal does not require to use the key border=*, tags like border=national_park can be used for compatibility with current systems.


a) Names instead of numbers are introduced because the readability of names is better than that one of numbers and usually it is easier to remember them.

b) The hierarchical structure of the values is strengthened in order to make things easier for mappers who don't have the expertise to map the very complex system of protected areas correctly. Many mappers will be able to distinguish between the values nature, resource and sociopolitical, so they can contribute with their knowledge about certain protected areas without having to become complete experts on this issue. Furthermore the values nature, resource and sociopolitical can be used where categories of protected areas are not yet classified, that is to say, where otherwise protect_class would have to be assigned one of the values 19, 29 or 99. Someone who is not sure which of the values nature, resource and sociopolitical is the correct one can just tag protected_area=yes.

c) A boundary is a one-dimensional object, whereas an area is two-dimensional, so it is conceptually wrong and confusing to assign it to a boundary. An object named "boundary" should hold properties that specify the boundary itself rather than properties of objects surrounded by the boundary. An adequate property to be assigned to a boundary would be for example "fence" or "wall". Though this has been done differently in the past with various tags, there is no reason to continue with a bad practice forever.

d) Compatibility is improved because tags like border=national_park can be used in parallel with protected_area=*.


Current notation Proposed notation

See also