Time again for our Website of the Week, when we
showcase interesting and innovative online destinations. Our web guide is VOA's
This week, a compendium of information about some 150,000
places on Earth that have some sort of protection against logging, mining,
hunting, or development.
"Most people think of them as national parks. So, the
Grand Canyon. The Serengeti. Many World Heritage sites.
"And they also have many different objectives. The
objectives are strict nature protection, where actually people aren't allowed
to go, all the way to the other extreme, where sustainable use of natural
resources is allowed by local and indigenous peoples," says Charles
Besançon, an official of the United Nations Environment Program, which compiles
the World Database on Protected Areas.
The U.N. first began collecting this information 26 years
ago, but the website was launched just a few weeks ago, which means it's too
early to tell who will be using it, and for what. But Besançon has some ideas.
"We're expecting that lots of armchair
environmentalists will happen across it. We also know many, many people, of
course, working in the conservation field, who use the data on a regular basis,
and they're dying to get in and see the new online version. And if you're a
scientist, you might want to do some analyses from it and make some
determinations about biodiversity protection, for example, around the
The underlying database is words and numbers, which is key
for scientists and other specialists who need the data. "But what makes it
real and interesting," says Besançon, "is when you mix it with other
data, like satellite imagery or aerial photography. And then you're looking at
Mount Rainier [in Washington State] and flying around it. It makes it much more
parks, nature preserves and more at the World Database on Protected Areas,
wdpa.org, or get the link to this and more than 200 other
Websites of the Week.