Biodiv Sci ›› 2018, Vol. 26 ›› Issue (3): 315-325.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2017235

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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:2018-03-20 Published:2018-05-05
  • Contact: Cui Guofa
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    # 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