New Paper: Understanding local-scale drivers of biodiversity outcomes in terrestrial protected areas

Or as I like to call it… everything you ever wanted to know about protected areas!

This work complements the Systematic Review we undertook but is able to draw from multi-disciplinary fields of research because we used a traditional review format, allowing us to move outside the constrained scope.  In an ideal world, the systematic review would be able to produce results that had similarly broad scope across a broad range of conservation outcomes. Unfortunately, while we were able to show that protected areas can successfully prevent deforestation (although much less successfully in Asia, and perhaps causing leakage), evidence to better understand what characteristics and interventions predict outcomes in protected areas is sparse.  Wildlife outcomes were more challenging still – high variance in outcomes and patchy documentation made insights challenging – our recent work in Nature Communications took a global analytical approach that moved us one step closer, but shed little light on local-scale drivers.

Our new study focuses on what makes parks work at the local scale. It is out now in New York Annals of the Society‘s Year in Ecology and Evolution Series (who by the way were brilliant to work with).

We identify three pillars of performance that operate at site and network scales to influence protected area performance: Socio-economic context, Implementation (including both Design and Management), and Governance.

The protected area system is embedded  within governance, social  and socio-economic systems and influenced by these, which interact with the Ecological system, and Pressures, or agents of change, to result in the State of biodiversity in a protected area.  nyas13154-fig-0001.png

Evidence suggests that PAs can and do deliver successful biodiversity outcomes. However, we find that the enthusiasm of countries to declare new PAs has not been matched by their commitment to locate them in areas of greatest need for biodiversity conservation or to provide the necessary political, policy, and funding commitments to ensure successful outcomes from management.

Consequently, performance is often suboptimal, and a lack of monitoring with appropriate counterfactuals ensures that the extent of this failure will not be realized or improved upon soon. The performance problem has been identified as requiring, not incremental improvement, but a step change in commitment and management of PAs if the expectations that are placed on them are to be met.

Drivers that appear most influential, like resources and governance, are also the least understood and researched, while those that appear theoretically important on the basis of ecological principles commonly have weak empirical support.

We examine the following themes in the full review, check it out for more details!

1. Socio-economic Context

  • Poverty, health, and well-being: costs and benefits of the PA for local people
  • Legislative and policy framework
  • Corruption, conflict, and stability

2. Implementation

A. Design

  • Size, Shape
  • Critical Habitat
  • Isolation, connectivity, and fragmentation

B. Management

  • IUCN Category
  • Resources budget, staff, equipment, and capacity
  • Visitation and tourism

3. Governance


Related Publications:

For more information about my ongoing work on protected areas you can read more HERE or check our the publications below.

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.  12747 (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. Early View Online: DOI: 10.1111/nyas.13154 

Chauvenet, A. L. M., and Barnes, M. D. 2016. Expanding protected areas is not enough. Science 353:551-552.

Barnes, M. Glew, L. Craigie, I. and Wyborn, C. (2015) Protect biodiversity, not just area. Nature 526, 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



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