Protected areas need capacity, funding, and good governance

An IUCN taskforce workshop held at the IUCN World Conservation Congress today highlighted emerging work from the IUCN joint Taskforce on biodiversity and protected areas and partners over the past 5 years.

The workshop was the culmination of at least 3 PhDs, 50+ dedicated people, 5 years, three giant databases, and something like 30 international workshops as part of the partnership between the Species Survival Commission and the World Commission on Protected Areas (and parallel work by the Management effectiveness working group and others).


Wealthier nations are more effective and corruption undermines the success of protected areas. It’s clear that strategies for  management must be tailored to National contexts, but it is less clear why – it may be lower available capacity, higher threats, or an axis of governance.

The emerging theme of all the studies presented was clear: management, governance, and adequate funding are critical in ensuring good outcomes in protected areas. The consistent implications of the body of work were reassuring, and we now have a useful set of working characteristics that should help set a policy agenda going forward. The consistent implications are that good outcomes for wildlife in protected areas depend first and foremost, on adequate resources, capacity and governance. In Stephen Woodley’s words – heroic management can overcome poor design in the short term, but in the longer term, it does come into play.

The other element that is incredibly clear is that both MPAs and terrestrial protected areas face a major management and capacity shortfall.


Protected areas are more than just lines on a map. They are policy, management, resources, and passionate people. The dedicated space they provide wildlife Is essential to conserving threatened species.  Establishing new protected areas is just the beginning.

To this end we have begun a discussion to address these issues on social media, in the press and through a series of publications (below) #notjustarea. To share your stories about outcomes in your local area, region, or nation, or stories so we can better protect biodiversity, please share on twitter with the #notjustarea tag.


Relevant Publications (so exciting to see them all here together!)

Look out for a range of communications products and upcoming publications as the taskforce concludes… !

Barnes, M., Craigie, I. D., Harrison, L., Geldmann, J., Collen.B., Whitmee, S., Burgess, N. Brooks, T., Hockings, M., Woodley, S. 2016. Wildlife population trends in protected areas predicted by national socio-economic metrics and body size. In Press, Accepted 29 July 2016. Nature Communications.DOI: 10.1038/ncomms12747

Barnes, M.D., Craigie, I. D., Dudley, N., Hockings, M.  What drives local scale outcomes in terrestrial protected areas? (2016) New York Annals of the Society: The Year in Ecology and Conservation, 1–19 C_ 2016 New York Academy of Sciences. In Press, Accepted May 2016 DOI: 10.1111/nyas.13154

Chauvenet, A. L. M., and Barnes, M. D. 2016. Expanding protected areas is not enough. Science353:551-552.

Barnes, M. Glew, L. Craigie, I. and Wyborn, C. (2015) Protect biodiversity, not just area. Nature526, 195

Barnes, M., I. D. Craigie, and M. Hockings. 2016. Towards Understanding Drivers of Wildlife Population Trends in Terrestrial Protected Areas. Pages 134-149  Protected Areas. John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. ISBN: 9781118338162

Craigie ID, Pressey RL, Barnes M. Remote regions – The last places where conservation efforts should be intensified. A reply to McCauley et al. (2013)

Geldmann, J., Barnes, M., Coad, L., Craigie, I., Hockings, M. and Burgess, N. (2013). Effectiveness of terrestrial protected areas in reducing habitat loss and population declines.Biological Conservation 161, 230-238.

Geldmann, J., Barnes, M., Coad, L., Craigie, I., Hockings, M. and Burgess, N. (2013). Effectiveness of terrestrial protected areas in reducing biodiversity and habitat loss.Collaboration for Environmental Evidence: 1-61.

In Review: 

Geldmann, J. Coad, L. Barnes, M. et al. Management effectiveness predicted by funding and capacity. (In review, PNAS)

Gill, D.A., Mascia, M.B., Ahmadia, G., Glew, L., Lester, S.E., Barnes, M. D., Craigie, I., Darling, E., Free, C., Geldmann, J., Holst, S., Jensen, O., White, A., Basurto, X., Coad, L., Gates, R.D., Guannel, G., Mumby, P., Thomas, H., Whitmee, S., Woodley, S. & Fox, H.E. Global capacity gaps hinder the conservation performance of marine protected areas (In Review, Nature)

Barnes, M.D., Woodley, S., Hockings, M. Money matters: Key correlates of biodiversity outcomes in Canadian protected areas. (In review, PNAS)


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