Beyond Paper Parks

Reconsidering equity in Protected Area Effectiveness

A blog entry by Rhoda Kachali.

Protected Areas are considered the cornerstones of biodiversity conservation and are important for the mitigation of global threats such as climate change and loss of biodiversity [1, 2]. An effectively managed protected area achieves its conservation objectives as well as provides for the needs of stakeholders, particularly, indigenous and local communities.
The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) therefore stresses the need to have PAs that are effectively and equitably managed (read more about it here).

Since 2004, close to 6,000 new PAs have been created, adding more than 60 million hectares to the PA estate (read more about it here). Despite this expansion, 40% of PAs have deficiencies in their management while 14% are inadequately managed [3]. Hence, many protected areas are considered “paper parks” with no conservation value, and are socially unsustainable [4, 5]. Several factors impact PA effectiveness; among them are insecure funding, lack of staff capacity, human land use and lack of data to inform management decisions [1, 3]. These factors are exacerbated by the fact that the majority of protected areas are found in highly biodiverse but poor regions of the world such as South America, Asia and Africa. Governments in these regions can barely ensure the basic livelihood needs of their people, let alone fund conservation [6, 7]. There is a need to re-evaluate how PAs are valued and shift funding priorities at a global level in order to boost protected area effectiveness and efficiency.

Additionally, equity considerations have emerged as key factors that impact PA effectiveness [8]. Inequity with regard to PAs is the result of a history of marginalization and evictions of indigenous and local peoples when PAs were created [9-11]. Power imbalances and unfairness in decision-making have exacerbated the overexploitation of resources and increased biodiversity loss [5].

To overcome this, governments and Non-Governmental Organisations have partnered with indigenous and local communities to formulate various types of Community Based Conservation (CBC) projects. These are an attempt to create mechanisms for communities to participate in PA management and for PAs to contribute to community welfare [12, 13].

1. Hoffmann, S. (2021). Challenges and opportunities of area-based conservation in reaching biodiversity and sustainability goals. Biodiversity and Conservation, 1-28.
2. Wilkie, D. S., Morelli, G. A., Demmer, J., Starkey, M., Telfer, P., & Steil, M. (2006). Parks and People: Assessing the Human Welfare Effects of Establishing Protected Areas for Biodiversity Conservation: Parks and People. Conservation Biology, 20(1), 247–249.
3. Leverington, F., Costa, K. L., Pavese, H., Lisle, A., & Hockings, M. (2010). A Global Analysis of Protected Area Management Effectiveness. Environmental Management, 46(5), 685–698.
4. da Silva, A. P. (2019). Brazilian large-scale marine protected areas: Other “paper parks”?. Ocean & Coastal Management, 169, 104-112.
5. Hill, L. S., Johnson, J. A., & Adamowski, J. (2016). Meeting Aichi Target 11: Equity considerations in marine protected areas design. Ocean & Coastal Management, 134, 112-119.
6. Brooks T.M., Mittermeier R.A., da Fonseca G.A.B. et al . (2006). Global biodiversity conservation priorities. Science 313, 58-61.
7. Lindsey, P. A., Nyirenda, V. R., Barnes, J. I., Becker, M. S., McRobb, R., Tambling, C. J., … & t’Sas-Rolfes, M. (2014). Underperformance of African protected area networks and the case for new conservation models: insights from Zambia. PLoS one, 9(5), e94109.
8. Zafra-Calvo N., Pascual, U., Brockington, D., Coolsaet, B., Cortes-Vazquez, J. A., Gross-Camp, N., Palomo, I., & Burgess, N.D. (2017). Towards an indicator system to assess equitable management in protected areas. Biological Conservation, 211, 134–141.
9. Neumann, R. P. (1998). Imposing Wilderness: Struggles Over Livelihood and Nature Preservation in Africa. University of California Press.
10. Gibson, C. C. (1999). Politicians and Poachers: The Political Economy of Wildlife Policy in Africa. Cambridge University Press.
11. Barrow. E., & Fabricus, C. (2002). Do rural people really benefit from protected areas – rhetoric or reality? Local Communities and Protected Area. Parks, 12 (2). Gland: The World Conservation Union (IUCN).
 12. Berkes, F. (2004). Rethinking community‐based conservation. Conservation biology, 18(3), 621-630.
 13. Hutton, J., Adams, W. M., & Murombedzi, J. C. (2005). Back to the Barriers? Changing Narratives in Biodiversity Conservation. Forum for Development Studies, 32(2), 341–370.
Image: Landscape in Vietnam, Christophe meyer.
Quote: About protected areas, IUCN.