Issues and Myths in Protected Area Conservation: Tradeoffs and Synergies (IMPACTS)

Lead Research Organisation: University College London
Department Name: Anthropology

Abstract

Protected areas are often viewed as an effective way of conserving ecosystems and wildlife around the world, and are rapidly expanding. If global targets are achieved they will soon cover 1/5 of the land surface and 1/10 of the coasts and seas, influencing the lives of millions of people who live in and around them. The social costs of these areas can be high ranging from eviction to resource use restrictions, and can often impact the poorest people most reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods.

International policy commitments emphasise that protected areas should at the very least not exacerbate poverty and should be equitably managed with local people involved in decision-making. Many conservation organisations now focus their mission not only on biodiversity but poverty alleviation and the promotion of human well-being. But progress on creating positive social impacts through conservation has been limited, and the factors involved in success complex and unclear. Often simplified assumptions are made about the relationships between social and ecological outcomes of protected areas. For example, by focusing on material outcomes and compensation, other aspects of human well-being such as relationships and subjective experiences are ignored. Looking at only average impacts ignores that there may be winners and losers across different groups of people.

It is generally agreed that conservation policy and practice should be evidence-based, but attempts to collate current evidence on the social impacts of protected areas have focused on quantitative data. This can simplify what are often complex processes and dynamic relationships between fine-scaled historical, cultural and institutional processes, local understandings about justice and social impacts, and ecological effectiveness. Qualitative evidence can provide important insights into processes involved in social impacts, how relationships between social and environmental outcomes may vary with different contextual factors, and intra-household, age and gender differences in impacts. Evidence that considers these kinds of nuances, and uses concepts of well-being and justice is emerging from ESPA projects and beyond.

The IMPACTS (Issues and Myths in Protected Area Conservation: Trade-offs and Synergies) project aims to enhance understandings of the social impacts of protected areas, and the ways they in turn influence ecological outcomes, in order to inform more socially and environmentally sustainable governance.

The project will convene an interdisciplinary expert Working Group who will work collaboratively to review and synthesise the current state of knowledge on the social and environmental outcomes of protected areas. It will involve a systematic and global review of a variety of different quantitative and qualitative evidence types including from the academic literature, non-academic reports, and ESPA projects, and use innovative narrative synthesis methods to analyse and present the results. The review will identify circumstances under which positive relationships emerge between (poverty alleviation) and environmental (ecosystem services) outcomes of protected areas: what works, where, how and why?

By engaging with policy-makers, conservation practitioners, and donors through workshops, non-technical briefings, and meetings, the project will inform policy and debate on protected areas and natural resource management more broadly, providing decision-makers and local communities with knowledge to advocate for and implement management that can enhance both social and environmental outcomes.

It will also benefit researchers by identifying gaps in the evidence base, and areas most in need of research, and will generate a comprehensive database of evidence which will be openly accessible to researchers wanting to find and use evidence on protected areas.

Planned Impact

The IMPACTS project ultimately aims to help reduce poverty especially in low income countries. The global scale of the synthesis, and the focus on identifying policy relevant synergies and solutions has the potential to impact the millions of people living in and around protected areas (PAs), many of whom are in low income countries and who are reliant on ecosystem services.

Firstly, the synthesis will add value by generating conceptual advancement in our understandings of synergies between ecosystem and social outcomes in PAs, using an ESPA perspective. It will also enhance accessibility of ESPA's body of evidence, and place it in the context of wider evidence. Lastly, it will clarify the strengths and weaknesses, and gaps in current research on how PAs can better reduce poverty and enhance human well-being, to inform future research activity.

The impacts will reach the primary beneficiaries (poor people in low income countries) through intermediary users and creators of the research. The research process will engage these intermediaries at multiple scales to filter knowledge at different levels shaping policy and practice that ultimately impacts on the ways that protected areas are implemented and managed. These groups are:
1) policy makers at a country level and internationally - who will benefit from increased understanding of what works and the implications of the research for existing policies. This will influence the investments and design of policies that guide effective and equitable governance of protected areas, therefore improving management of ecosystems for wellbeing
2) protected area managers at a site level - who will gain a greater knowledge regarding factors that are likely to enhance synergies between environmental and social outcomes, and conceptual understanding of social-ecological systems, which will aid in management decisions
3) community and civil society organisations - who will be equipped with new knowledge regarding the impacts of protected areas, and aspects of governance that could improve outcomes, allowing them to advocate for more equitable management of protected areas. The project will engage with organisations that work with CSOs such as the Forest Peoples Programme.
4) donors e.g. DFID - who fund conservation and development projects and research, supporting their funding decisions, future programme development and the ways that they evaluate impacts
5) academics and researchers - by highlighting where to focus future research efforts.

Publications

10 25 50
 
Description Through a synthesis of the evidence from 100 peer-reviewed publications combined with insights from 25 expert interviews we investigated and challenged common assumptions regarding the relationship between protected areas and poverty. Our findings have provided insights and recommendations for improving protected area governance and management to enhance the social and ecological outcomes of protected areas in the Global South. We continue to work to inform policy and practice on protected areas through engagement with decision-makers and practitioners.
Exploitation Route As a result of our engagement activities, we expect that the evidence based knowledge and recommendations coming out of the research will be integrated into policy and practice relating to protected area governance and management. Through targeting organisations at different levels, we expect that findings will be for example (i) mainstreamed in local cases of protected area management e.g. in the way that compensation and alternative livelihoods are implemented; (ii) taken into account in evidence reviews by policy makers working on protected area conservation e.g. IUCN; (iii) used in advocacy work by civil society organisations working to promote socially just conservation.
Sectors Environment

 
Description Through early and ongoing engagement with our network of key partner organisations (e.g. international conservation NGOs, in-country protected area practitioners, civil society organisations) we are increasing awareness of our research findings and entering into dialogue about how these findings can improve the governance and management of protected areas at different levels to support human wellbeing. We have engaged with major conservation organisations through the listed activities, and impact work will continue beyond the end of the funding period to enhance impact and reach beyond our network such as through practitioner meetings in which our partner organisations share lessons from our research with their wider organisations and networks. We are in the process of publishing an academic journal article based on the research outputs and we will use this as a springboard for further engagement including media articles and broader publicity.
First Year Of Impact 2018
Sector Environment
Impact Types Societal,Policy & public services

 
Description UCL Global Engagement Fund
Amount £4,000 (GBP)
Organisation University College London 
Sector Academic/University
Country United Kingdom
Start 03/2017 
End 02/2018
 
Title protected area publications 
Description As a result of a systematic literature review, we have developed a database of 100 recent peer reviewed publications (post-2014) relating the social and ecological outcomes of protected areas in the Global South. Data include information on location, type of governance, impacts on human wellbeing and processes of change. 
Type Of Material Database/Collection of data 
Year Produced 2018 
Provided To Others? No  
Impact The database will be made publicly available alongside the publication of an academic publication currently in preparation. This will be of use to researchers wanting to find and use evidence relating to the impacts of protected areas in the Global South. 
 
Description Conference presentation at European Congress of Conservation Biology 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact A 15 minutes conference presentation titled "Rethinking common narratives on the linkages between protected areas and human wellbeing" which presented key findings from the research. It was part of a broader symposium titled "New Perspectives on the Natural Environment and Human Wellbeing in the Context of the Sustainable Development Goals" which brought together key researchers working on this topic. It was followed by a panel discussion and generated lots of questions and a lively debate with the audience which included academics, conservation practitioners and policy makers. The panel members continue to be engaged in discussions about future collaborative projects.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Poster at ZSL symposium 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact We presented a poster on our research findings at the Zoological Society of London symposium 'Safeguarding space for nature and securing our future: developing a post-2020 strategy' - a major event which as part of the process to develop a strategy reaching beyond the Convention on Biological Diversity strategic plan 2011-2020, brought together international scientists, conservation practitioners, policy-makers, business leaders, civil society and donors to develop policy and recommendations on protected areas. Our poster received attention from attendees at the event, with attendees asking questions and for further information. We also publicized the poster through social media which generated interest and some questions and debate.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
URL https://www.zsl.org/science/whats-on/safeguarding-space-for-nature-and-securing-our-future-developin...
 
Description Talk at major conservation NGO meeting 
Form Of Engagement Activity A talk or presentation
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact A talk given by Kate Schreckenberg to an event titled 'People and protected areas: solutions for post-2020' at the offices of Conservation International, Washington DC in May 2018. The talk outlined our research which challenges common narratives on the relationship between protected areas and poverty. There were about 25 people present including from major conservation NGOs such as CI, The Nature Conservancy as well as donors such as USAID. The talk generated significant discussion and the audience reported that it was thought provoking and generated interest in finding out more about the evidence and research.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Two project workshops 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Third sector organisations
Results and Impact We have held two workshops during the course of the project. The first at the start brought together 16 academic researchers and conservation practitioners and policy-makers to develop the scope of the research synthesis, demand-led questions and strategies for dissemination. This early engagement with organisations beyond the working group of UK-based academia was designed to improve uptake of research outcomes and to ensure their relevance. The second workshop focused on developing the key outputs from the research and in addition to the core working group, we invited a researcher and practitioner from East Africa practitioners to further expand our engagement with key actors in the Global South (see further funding).
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018
 
Description Workshop on Protected Area Governance, Equity and the Green List 
Form Of Engagement Activity Participation in an activity, workshop or similar
Part Of Official Scheme? No
Geographic Reach International
Primary Audience Professional Practitioners
Results and Impact Our project post-doctoral researcher (Claire Bedelian) participated in a workshop in Nairobi led by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) on methods to assess the governance of protected areas in relation to the IUCN Green List standard. Our contribution was to discuss and refine how to link governance and equity assessment with assessment of the impacts of protected areas on human wellbeing. The event enabled engagement with a wide range of NGOs working at an international and national level (e.g. IUCN, WWF, Kenya conservancies) to raise awareness our project and situate it within wider policy processes occurring.
Year(s) Of Engagement Activity 2018