The contribution of equitable governance of protected areas to achieving effective biodiversity conservation

Lead Research Organisation: King's College London
Department Name: Geography


Protected areas are a key tool for combating current extreme rates of biodiversity loss. Although protected area coverage has almost reached the 2020 target of 17% set by the Convention on Biological Diversity, there is concern that many protected areas are not as effective in conserving biodiversity as they should be. At the same time, there is growing evidence of the costs protected areas can impose on local people, e.g. by placing restrictions on their livelihood activities. While there is a strong moral argument for ensuring that protected areas do no harm to local people, there is as yet relatively little exploration of the assumed 'instrumental' argument that more equitable governance (e.g. recognition of the usufruct rights of local communities) will - via changes in management (e.g. provision of harvesting quotas for specific products and involvement of local people in monitoring) - result in better biodiversity outcomes (e.g. less illegal use of endangered species).

The project aims to address this gap by exploring the contribution of equitable governance of protected areas to the achievement of effective biodiversity conservation. It will do so by (i) assessing the extent of the correlation between equity and biodiversity outcomes at 30 sites; (ii) developing a framework for conceptualising and analysing the instrumental pathway(s); and (iii) exploring one or more of these potential pathways in-depth in two protected areas. The research will contribute to more effective iodiversity conservation by building evidence for the instrumental argument and thus increasing interest among protected area managers to invest in equity as a part of their core business.

The project will take a phased and interdisciplinary approach. In Year 1, the project will analyse data from around 30 sites currently piloting a new tool for 'Site-level Assessment of Governance and Equity' (SAGE) with the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) to determine the extent of any correlation between equity scores and biodiversity outcomes. Drawing on the literature, the project will also elaborate indicators for the instrumental argument for more equitable protected area governance. During Years 2 and 3, in-depth fieldwork will be carried out in Kenya and/or Namibia at two sites where governance is 'shared' between the state and local communities and where biodiversity outcomes are improving. In addition to undertaking a SAGE assessment at each site, the project will use individual and group interviews to map changes over time in governance, management and biodiversity outcomes and explore the instrumental links between them. In addition to sharing findings with academics and feeding back to local stakeholders, dissemination activities will focus on reaching conservation practitioners and policymakers making use of IIED's extensive professional networks and reputation in this field.


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Studentship Projects

Project Reference Relationship Related To Start End Student Name
ES/P000703/1 30/09/2017 29/09/2027
2453623 Studentship ES/P000703/1 30/09/2020 30/05/2024 Naira Michalina Dehmel