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Protected areas are the main strategy for the protection of ecosystems and biodiversity. However, changes occurring during the Anthropocene continue to threaten biodiversity and, therefore, the associated ecosystem services that maintain human well-being. Despite efforts to integrate protected areas into a wider landscape, most of these areas are still managed as islands within a matrix of degraded territory; there is no clear conceptual framework that integrates them into the surrounding landscape. We first review the evolution of the protected-area concept. Then, we acknowledge the main limitations that protected areas face for long-term conservation. Next, we discuss how the ecosystem service approach could overcome some of these protected-area limitations. Finally, we propose a social-ecological approach for protected areas to maintain high biodiversity and its associated flow of ecosystem services in the context of uncertainty.