Protected Areas as an Asset Class

Key Themes:
  • Power and Legacy
  • Interdependence and Inclusivity
  • Operational and Funding Models

Managing protected areas for resilience and securing the many benefits they provide.

About the project

The challenge

Protected areas have been at the centre of global efforts to conserve species and habitats. They have attracted significant investment over the past century from governments, philanthropists, conservation organisations and the private sector.

The Aichi Biodiversity Targets under the Convention on Biological Diversity aim for at least 17% of terrestrial and inland water, and 10% of coastal and marine areas to be designated as protected areas by 2020.

However, there are current and emerging risks that could undermine the numerous benefits provided by protected areas. Some of these threats, including climate change, illegal wildlife trade, land encroachment, extractive industries and infrastructure development, are already placing significant strain on protected areas. Other risks include changes in land designation or regulations, jurisdictional tensions between Ministries (such as mining and forestry) and conflict.

Protected areas need to be managed in a way that boosts their resilience to stresses and secures a return on the considerable investment placed in them.

The response

A project led by the University of Oxford, with the support of the Luc Hoffmann Institute and WWF UK, developed a framework to understand protected areas as an ‘asset class’ to help guide investment and management.

The asset framework represents a practical tool for identifying the diverse forms of value that protected areas generate for people and economies (many of which cannot be monetised), where the value lies and the relationship to investment in a range of asset types. The framework identifies the value that is being captured and the potential value that has yet to be realised, thereby creating a case for new investment in protected areas.

The impact

The project has provided a connection between protected area effectiveness and investment risk and opportunity. By reframing the debate around protected area effectiveness in return-on-investment language, the findings of this research could be used to catalyse changes in the investment climate, creating more opportunities for protected areas as an asset class.

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