Biodiversity Science ›› 2018, Vol. 26 ›› Issue (3): 315-325.doi: 10.17520/biods.2017235

• Forum • Previous Article    

Overview and classification outlook of natural protected areas in mainland China

Yangjing Peng, Jian Fan, Shaohua Xing, Guofa Cui*()   

  1. School of Nature Conservation, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing 100083
  • Received:2017-09-01 Accepted:2018-01-26 Online:2018-05-05
  • Cui Guofa
  • About author:

    # Co-first authors

By the end of 2016, China had established approximately 10 types and a large number of natural protected areas since the first nature reserve was established in 1956. With ecological civilization construction, to establish a natural protected areas system based on national parks is not only an important project put forward by the state, but also the inevitable trend for future development. However, problems including ambiguous concepts, confused classification systems, vague dominant functions, and geospatial overlap also accompanied these natural protected areas. There is still no unified classification system that can be applied in all types of natural protected areas in China, this lack of classification system has seriously impeded ongoing optimization and integration of the existing natural protected areas and the construction of a national park system and is not convenient for international academic exchanges. Therefore, defining natural protected areas is urgently needed and is essential for the establishment of a classification system that is applicable to our country and conducive to international communication. Here we mainly discuss the concepts and connotation of natural protected areas in China, tease out their development processes, and summarize the construction and classification of 10 types of natural protected areas, while comparing the similarities and differences of these concepts and classifications. Finally, based on the IUCN protected area management classification system, the natural attribution of protected objects, and social attribution of management objects, we propose three classification systems to provide a reference for establishing a natural protected area classification system and national park system. We hope these systems will play a role in the study of the classification system of natural protected areas in the future.

Key words: protected area, classification system, national park system, integration

Fig. 1

The types of natural protected area over time"

Table 1

The number and area of natural protected area (until the end of 2016)"

类型 Type 国家级 National-level 省级 Province-level 市级 City-level 县级 County-level 总数 Total 主管部门
Area (×104 ha)
Area (×104 ha)
Area (×104 ha)
Area (×104 ha)
面积 (万公顷)
Area (×104 ha)
Nature reserve
446 9,695 871 3,767 403 445 1,030 826 2,750 14,733 多部门管理
Multiple authorities
Scenic and
historical area
225 10.36 737 9.2 - - - - 1,025 19.56 住房和城乡建设部
Forest park
827 1,251.06 1,402 417.99 - - 1,005 132.66 3,234 1,801.71 国家林业局
Wetland park
正式 Official
试点 Pilot
36 274 283 - - - - 979 319 国家林业局
Pilot desert park
55 29.73 - - - - - - 55 29.73 国家林业局
批准建立189处, 已授予资格52处
189 were approved and 52 got the qualification
1,199 235 缺少数据
Lack of data
- - 0 0 424 1,199 + 国土资源部MOLR
Special marine reserve
59 696 0 0 - - - - 59 696 国家海洋局SOA
Water park
719 缺少数据
Lack of data
1,781 缺少数据
Lack of data
- - - - 2,500 缺少数据Lack of data 水利部
Fishery genetic resources reserve
523 1,330.92 缺少
数据Lack of data
缺少数据Lack of data - - - - 523+ 1,330.92 农业部
Pilot national park
9 1,685.49 10 3,059 - - - - 19 4,744.49 发改委牵头
3,753 15,933.56 +
(Did not
remove the overlap)
5,310+ 7,536.19
(Did not remove the overlap)
403 445 2,035 958.66
(Did not remove the overlap)
11,568+ 24,873.41 (未除去重叠区域)
(Did not remove the overlap)
MOHURD, Ministry of Housing and Urban-Rural Development of the People’s Republic of China; SFA, The State Forestry Administration of the People’s Republic of China; MOLR, Ministry of Land and Resources of the People’s Republic of China; SOA, State Oceanic Administration of the People’s Republic of China; MOWR, The Ministry of Water Resources of the People’s Republic of China; MOA, Ministry of Agriculture of the People’s Republic of China; NDRC, National Development and Reform Commission.

Table 2

The natural protected area classification system based on IUCN protected area categories"

IUCN protected area classification system.
Control category
Existing natural protected area categories
I: Strict Nature Reserve 严格自然保护区 Strict Nature Reserve
关键特征: 具有极高原真性和完整性的自然生态系统以及极高生物多样性价值; 区域内严格限制人为活动。
Critical features: Natural ecosystems with a high level of authenticity and integrity, high biodiversity value, and strict limits on human activities.
自然生态系统类型的自然保护区(包括森林、草原与草甸、荒漠、内陆湿地和水域、海洋和海岸带生态系统5个类型); 海洋特别保护区中的海洋生态保护区类型
Nature reserve protecting natural ecosystem (including five ecosystem types: forest, grass land and meadow, desert, inland wetlands and waters, marine and coastal zone); Marine ecological reserve in marine special reserve.
II: National Park 国家公园 National Park
关键特征: 具有国家代表性的大面积自然生态系统; 可实现自然资源科学保护和合理利用的特定陆地或海洋区域。
Critical features: Specific land or marine areas which have large-scale natural ecosystems with national representation; and natural resources that can be scientifically protected and rationally used.
National park pilots that will be approved as a formal national park
III: Natural Monument
or Feature
自然遗迹保护区 Natural Relic Reserve
关键特征: 地质遗迹或古生物遗迹
Critical features: Geological relics or paleontological relics
自然遗迹类自然保护区(包括地质遗迹类型自然保护区和古生物遗迹类型自然保护区); 地质公园
Nature reserve protecting nature relics (including geological relics and paleontological relics); Geopark
IV: Habitat/Species
野生生物保护区 Wildlife Reserve
关键特征: 重点保护野生动植物的集中分布地及其生境
Critical features: The concentration area of key protected wild plants, animals and their habitats
野生生物类自然保护区(包括野生动物类型的自然保护区; 野生植物类型的自然保护区)
Wildlife nature reserve protecting wildlife (including wild animals and wild plants)
V: Protected Landscape/
自然景观保护区 Natural Landscape Protected Area
关键特征: 拥有优美、突出的自然景观, 在保护自然景观和自然生态过程的同时, 可开展一定的观赏游憩活动。
Critical features: Areas with beautiful, outstanding natural landscapes and in the preservation of the natural landscape and ecological process, certain ornamental recreation activities are available.
风景名胜区(仅包括自然景观类); 森林公园; 湿地公园; 水利风景区(仅包括水库型、湿地型、自然河湖型); 海洋公园; 沙漠公园
Scenic and history area (including natural landscape); Forest park; Wetland park; Water park (Including reservoirs, wetlands and natural lakes); Ocean park; Desert park
VI: Protected Area with Sustainable Use of Natural
自然资源保护区 Natural Resources Protected Area
关键特征: 用于保持资源的可持续利用
Critical features: Maintain the sustainable use of resources
海洋特别保护区中的海洋资源保护区; 海洋特别保护区中的海洋特殊地理条件保护区; 水产种质资源保护区
Marine resources reserve in marine special reserve; Special geographic marine reserve in marine special reserve; Fishery genetic resources reserve
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