Base maps provide a variety of map backgrounds for visual comparison with other data.
The default base map is derived from Google Maps and shows political boundaries, major geological features, and other key areas of interest. Read the terms of service here.
Google Maps’ terrain base map shows geographical and topographical details. Scale varies by location. Read the terms of service here.
Google Maps’ satellite base map consists of a mix of recent (1–3 years old) mid-resolution and high-resolution satellite and aerial imagery from multiple providers for a given area. TerraMetrics TruEarth 15-meter imagery is the baselayer imagery that covers the entire globe, and Google adds high-resolution imagery, where available, over TruEarth 15-meter imagery to provide additional visual details. Read the terms of service here.
- Displays areas that are legally protected according to various designations (e.g., national parks, state reserves, and wildlife reserves) and managed to achieve conservation objectives
- Geographic coverage
- Source data
- The World Database on Protected Areas, which compiles protected area data from governments, NGOs, and international secretariats
- Frequency of updates
- Date of content
- Varies by protected area
Protected area designations, such as “National Park,” can be applied differently in different countries. Therefore, the associated IUCN category and its description of protection may also vary by country.
Protected areas with no boundary data are displayed as brown dotted boxes, which represent the reported protected area size. The box is centered around a single point location and the borders do not indicate the real boundary of the protected area.
The World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA) is the most comprehensive global spatial data set on marine and terrestrial protected areas available. Protected area data are provided via protectedplanet.net, the online interface for the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA). The WDPA is a joint initiative of the IUCN and UNEP-WCMC to compile spatially referenced information about protected areas.
Not all protected areas receive the same degree of protection. While some have strict guidelines designed to preserve intact ecosystems, others allow for sustainable land use, often including limited resource extraction. In addition, not all countries use the same terminology when designating a protected area. Accordingly, the International Union for Conservation of Nature defined universal management categories that stipulate the level of protection for most protected areas.
As you click through protected areas in this layer, note the “legal designation” and the explanations below to better understand the degree to which an area is protected.
- Ia. Strict Nature Reserves. Protected areas designed to preserve biodiversity and all geological features. Limited human use (e.g., scientific study, education) is allowed and carefully monitored. Strict Nature Reserves are often used to understand the impact of indirect human disturbance (e.g., burning fossil fuels) because of the area’s high level of preservation. Other common designations: Biological Reserve, Botanical Reserve
- Ib. Wilderness Areas. Protected areas managed to preserve ecosystem processes with limited human use. Wilderness Areas cannot contain modern infrastructure (e.g., a visitor’s center), but they allow for local indigenous groups to maintain subsistence lifestyles. These areas are often established to restore disturbed environments. Other common designations: Wilderness Reserve, Wildlife Area
- II. National Parks. Protected areas designed to preserve large-scale ecosystems and support human visitation. With conservation as a priority, these areas allow infrastructure and contribute to the local economy by providing opportunities for environmental educational and recreation. Other common designations: State Park, Class A Park, Park Reserve, Provincial Park
- III. National Monuments or Features. Areas established to protect a specific natural feature (e.g., cave, grove) or human-made monument with significant historical, spiritual, or environmental importance and the immediate surroundings. Accordingly, Natural Monuments or Features are typically smaller in area and have high human impact resulting from visitor traffic. Other common designations: Natural Features Reserve, Nature Monument, Botanical Garden
- IV. Habitat and Species Management Areas. Areas designed to conserve specific wildlife populations and/or habitats. Habitat and Species Management Areas often exist within a larger ecosystem or protected area and are carefully managed (e.g., through hunting abatement or habitat restoration) to conserve a target species or habitat. Other common designations: National Wildlife Refuge, State Wildlife Management Area, Faunal Reserve, Zakaznik (Russia), Provincial Reserve, Wildlife Sanctuary
- V. Protected Landscapes and Seascapes. Protected areas with ecological, biological, or cultural importance that have been shaped by human use of the landscape. Protected landscapes and seascapes typically cover entire bodies of land or ocean and allow for a number of for-profit activities (e.g., ecotourism) in accordance with the region’s management plan. Other common designations: National Forest, State Natural Area, Environmental Protection Area, Protected Area, Quasi National Park (Japan), Nature Reserve, State Natural Area
- VI. Protected Areas with Sustainable Use of Natural Resources. Areas designed to manage natural resources and uphold the livelihoods of surrounding communities. These regions have a low level of human occupation, small-scale developments (i.e., not industrial), and part of the landscape in its natural condition. Other common designations: Wildlife Reserve, Biosphere Reserve, Forest Reserve, Protective Zone, National Forest, Natural and National Reserves, Reserve, Multiple Use Reserve, Municipal Reserve
Other Important Designations
- UNESCO-MAP Biosphere Reserves: areas under UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Programme designated to “promote sustainable development based on local community efforts and sound science.”
- World Heritage Sites: areas considered to have “outstanding universal value” and meet at least one of ten criteria, as described here.
- Ramsar Sites—Wetlands of International Importance: wetlands that hold significant value designated under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands.
Citation: UNEP-WCMC, UNEP, and IUCN. “World Database on Protected Areas.” Accessed on [date]. www.protectedplanet.net.
Google Maps Road Network base map shows the extent of collected and generated road features. The map is proprietary to Google and cannot be downloaded. Scale varies by location. Read the terms of service here.
This base map depicts the highest points in the forest canopy. Its spatial resolution is 0.6 miles (1 km) and was validated against data from a network of nearly 70 ground sites around the world. It was developed by a team of scientists from NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California; the University of Maryland, College Park; and Woods Hole Research Center, Falmouth, Massachusetts. The map was created using 2.5 million carefully screened, globally distributed laser pulse measurements from space. The light detection and ranging (Lidar) data were collected in 2005 by the Geoscience Laser Altimeter System instrument on NASA’s Ice, Cloud, and land Elevation Satellite (ICESat).
These base maps show a composite of the best annual Landsat satellite imagery (USGS/NASA) from 1999 to 2012. The annual composites were generated by Google in the Google Earth Engine. The Landsat composites display “Top-of-Atmosphere,” or the most cloud-free, images at 30-meter resolution. More information on Landsat imagery is available from the Landsat website. Read the terms of service here.
Note: Because of the very large file size of the annual Landsat composite layers, images will take some time to reload on the website and as you zoom in and out.