About 900 large protected areas (over 100 hectares) form an impressive network of natural habitats and traditional landscapes. The network is made up of different categories of protected areas that are mutually complementary:
National parks: Large natural areas or areas that have been changed very little by man; generally have a high level of protection. However, certain traditional activities may be permitted.
> 14 national parks.
Regional and/or nature parks: Large areas usually characterised by traditional human mountain farming and forestry activities and significant levels of tourism. These parks often contribute to regional development in addition to their environmental protection responsibilities.
> 70 regional and natural parks.
Nature reserves: Areas varying from few hectares to several thousand hectares, generally with a high level of protection similar to national parks. Often their task is the protection of rare habitats, unique fauna and flora or endangered wetlands.
> 300 nature reserves.
Biosphere reserves: Wide-ranging form of protection defined by UNESCO. Biosphere reserves are usually made up of three zones: a protected zone (often an existing protected area), a transition zone and a development zone.
> 10 biosphere reserves.
Natural World Heritage site: area inscribed on the UNESCO World Heritage List. The natural value of such sites is outstanding for humanity as a whole. UNESCO requires the preservation of their values for future generations, with management plans based on wide acceptance.
> 2 natural World Heritage Sites.
There are also various other types of protection, different in each country, which are also part of the Alpine Network of Protected Areas, such as:
quiet zones, biotopes covered by protection orders, protected landscape areas, espaces naturels sensibles (fragile natural areas) of the Département of Isère/F, listed areas (sites classés), forest reserves, etc.