New studies look at impact of protected areas on poverty, human well-being



These are women from Uaxactun village in the Peten, Guatemala preparing dinner for tourists. Credit: Lovett Williams

New studies look at impact of protected areas on poverty, human well-being

Posted: 14 Oct 2015 11:22 AM PDT

A substantial fraction of the Earth is now legally protected from damaging human activities. Does this protection matter? In other words, has it made a difference in terms of maintaining or enhancing biological diversity and ecosystem services? Has it harmed or helped the people who live in and around these areas? The answers to these important questions are surprisingly elusive, but absolutely essential for developing effective conservation strategies. Practitioners need credible, scientific evidence about the degree to which protected areas affect environmental and social outcomes, and how these effects vary with context. Such evidence has been lacking, but the situation is changing as conservation scientists adopt more sophisticated research designs for evaluating protected areas’ past impacts and for predicting their future impacts. Complementing these scientific advances, conservation funders and practitioners are paying increasing attention to evaluating their investments with more scientifically rigorous evaluation designs. This theme issue of Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B highlights recent advances in the science of protected area evaluations and explores the challenges to developing a more credible evidence base on which societies can achieve their goals of protecting nature while enhancing human welfare….Nature conservation programs such as protected areas can have significant impacts — both positive and negative — on local people. These impacts can be economic, including on income, housing and livelihoods, but conservation can also affect social relations and people’s feelings about life. The authors explore the concept of wellbeing, which encompasses these different dimensions, and propose nine principles which can help conservationists better to understand their impacts on people’s lives. These include ensuring local people’s priorities are addressed and making sure that research uses appropriate methods which can capture the complexity of the impacts that people experience.

  1. Daniel Brockington, David Wilkie. Protected areas and poverty. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2015; 370 (1681): 20140271 DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2014.0271
  2. Emily Woodhouse, Katherine M. Homewood, Emilie Beauchamp, Tom Clements, J. Terrence McCabe, David Wilkie, E. J. Milner-Gulland. Guiding principles for evaluating the impacts of conservation interventions on human well-being. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences, 2015; 370 (1681): 20150103 DOI: 10.1098/rstb.2015.0103

    Summary of guiding principles for evaluating impacts of conservation interventions on well-being


    (a) Defining outcomes and indicators

    (i) Principle 1: put local people at the centre of the evaluation

    (ii) Principle 2: select multiple outcomes to measure and consider subjective components

    (b) Evaluation design: linking outcomes to the intervention

    (i) Principle 3: match evaluation design to the setting and questions asked

    (c) Understanding processes of change

    (i) Principle 4: provide evidence of causal linkages

    (ii) Principle 5: consider trajectories of change

    (iii) Principle 6: investigate institutions and governance structures

    (d) Data collection

    (i) Principle 7: select and apply methods and toolkits with sensitivity to the research context

    (ii) Principle 8: take into account heterogeneity within the target group

    (iii) Principle 9: ensure independence

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