A growing number of protected areas are defined by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) as protected landscapes and seascapes
, or category V protected areas, one of six protected area categories based on management approach. Category V now makes up over half the protected area coverage in Europe, for instance. While the earliest category V areas were designated mainly for their landscape and recreational values, they are increasingly expected also to protect biodiversity. Critics have claimed that they fail to conserve enough biodiversity. The current paper addresses this question by reviewing available evidence for the effectiveness of category V in protecting wild biodiversity by drawing on published information and a set of case studies. Research to date focuses more frequently on changes in vegetation cover than on species, and results are limited and contradictory, suggesting variously that category V protected areas are better than, worse than or the same as more strictly protected categories in terms of conserving biodiversity. This may indicate that differences are not dramatic, or that effectiveness depends on many factors. The need for greater research in this area is highlighted. Research gaps include: (i) comparative studies of conservation success inside and outside category V protected areas; (ii) the contribution that small, strictly protected areas make to the conservation success of surrounding, less strictly protected areas—and vice versa; (iii) the effectiveness of different governance approaches in category V; (iv) a clearer understanding of the impacts of zoning in a protected area; and (v) better understanding of how to implement landscape approaches in and around category V protected areas.
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