A new website created by WWF documents cases worldwide in which protected areas or their regulations have been lost or significantly weakened through legal or regulatory changes. Inspired by research on the phenomenon by Michael Mascia, director of social science for WWF, the PADDDtracker.org site identifies and profiles thousands of protected areas that have been:

  • Downgraded: in which the relevant authority has decreased legal restrictions on the number, magnitude, or extent of human activities within the protected area;
  • Downsized: in which a boundary change has decreased the size of a protected area; or
  • Degazetted: in which legal protection for an entire protected area has been lost.

PADDD stands for protected area downgrading, downsizing, and degazettement.

MPAs in the database; how you can help identify more

The PADDDtracker database does not yet categorize sites by biome or habitat, although a word search for “coastal” or “marine” in the database does find a few MPAs. So far the database has many times more terrestrial protected areas than marine ones. “There are a few MPAs in PADDDtracker.org, but not many,” says Mascia. “Partly this may be the result of a terrestrial bias. More importantly, the starting point is different in marine systems: MPAs are fewer in number and, on average, more recently established than terrestrial sites. So, given equal probabilities of PADDD in a year, we would expect fewer cases of marine PADDD than terrestrial ones.”

Still, he says, marine PADDDs are out there, and he invites the MPA community to help identify them. “We know that our current data are not complete, since we keep identifying new PADDD events every day,” says Mascia. “With this in mind, the readers of MPA News can play a pivotal role in expanding the breadth and depth of our coverage.”

To add to the roughly 3300 PADDD events that have already been identified, go to www.PADDDtracker.org, register (just a name and email address), and click the “Add PADDD” button. Via the website, WWF aims to document the patterns, trends, causes, and consequences of PADDD.

For more information: Michael Mascia, WWF, Washington, DC, US. Email: admin@padddtracker.org