Biodiv Sci ›› 2023, Vol. 31 ›› Issue (9): 22447.  DOI: 10.17520/biods.2022447

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Discussion and suggestions on several key issues in the integration and optimization of protected areas

Guofa Cui*()   

  1. School of Ecology and Nature Conservation, Beijing Forestry University, Beijing 100083
  • Received:2022-08-04 Accepted:2023-09-05 Online:2023-09-20 Published:2023-10-14
  • Contact: *E-mail:


Aim: The integration and optimization of protected areas represent fundamental endeavors aimed at establishing a comprehensive protected area system, with national parks as the central component. It also constitutes a significant historical initiative designed to address an array of conflicts in these protected areas and to rectify lingering historical problem. Since February 2020, the integration and optimization plan for consolidating and enhancing protected areas at the provincial level has been gradually improved. However, the ultimate goal of crafting a well-considered, practical, and scientifically grounded strategy for the integration and optimization of protected areas remains a formidable challenge. This article proposes some suggestions for reference in the integration and optimization of protected areas.

Method: This paper provides comprehensive and systematic analysis and discussion of several pivotal issues, including the categories division, classification and zoning of protected areas, the integration and optimization of natural scenic areas, the connection of ecological conservation redlines, and the transfer out of permanent basic farmland.

Results: The following suggestions may be valuable: (1) Scenic areas featuring natural landscapes as their main scenic resources and protected objects should constitute a distinct category, separate from nature reserves and natural parks; Scenic areas whose main scenic resources are cultural landscapes should not be included from the protected areas system. (2) The main function of aquatic germplasm resources reserve, wild plant original habitat reserve, mini nature reserve, and important habitats of wild animals are nature preservation, categorizing them as nature reserves rather than natural parks. (3) The type of “ecological natural park” should not be introduced. The names of natural parks such as forest parks, geological parks, and wetland parks, should not be changed to forest natural parks, geological natural parks, or wetland natural parks. (4) In cases where nature reserves, natural parks, and scenic areas are divided into two levels of management, these levels should be national and provincial. The term “level” should not be omitted in names like national forest parks, national wetland parks, national grassland parks, etc. (5) Drawing inspiration from the tiered setup method of control areas and functional areas of national park, nature reserves, natural parks, scenic areas, etc., can also adopt a tiered approach from control areas and functional areas. The three functional areas of core area, buffer area and experimental area of nature reserve should not be simplified into two control areas: core protection area and general control area. Scenic areas and natural parks should not be managed as a single general control area, but core protection areas (i.e., strictly controlled areas) can also be established. (6) The classification status and nature protection function of scenic areas with natural landscape as the main scenic resources and protected subjects in the protected areas system should be acknowledged and included in the protected areas integration and optimization plan. (7) It is not appropriate to encompass the entire protected area within the ecological conservation redline. Instead, it is more suitable to include the “land plots” with significant ecological functions and sensitive and fragile eco-environment in the forest land, grassland, water areas, and other land types in the protected area into the ecological conservation redline. (8) The protected area represents a geographical unit and a mosaic of ecological space, production space and living space. Permanent basic farmland is a “plot” of high-quality cultivated land, and its production space attribute remains unchanged if it is retained within the protected area. Therefore, it cannot be removed from the protected area.

Conclusion: The approval of the integration and optimization plan for natural reserves, as well as the revision of the Protected Areas Law, National Parks Law, and Nature Reserve Regulations, should take into thorough account the development history and management status of various types of natural reserves.

Key words: protected area, national park, nature reserve, scenic area, natural park, integration and optimization