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.
The two WCS Co-authored papers:
Protected areas and poverty by Daniel Brokington of the University of Manchester and David Wilkie of WCS
Summary: Protected areas are controversial because they are so important for conservation and because they distribute fortune and misfortune unevenly. The nature of that distribution and specifically the relationship between protected areas and poverty has been vigorously contested in academic and policy debates, as well as the terrains of protected areas themselves. In this paper the authors review the origins of this debate and chart its key moments, then outline the continuing flashpoints and ways in which further evaluation studies could improve the evidence base for policy making and conservation practice.
Guiding principles for evaluating the impacts of conservation interventions on human well-being by Emily Woodhouse of WCS, Katherine M. Homewood of University College London, Emilie Beauchamp of Imperial College London, Tom Clements of WCS, J. Terrence McCabe of the Univerity of Colorado, David Wilkie of WCS, and E.J. Milner-Gulland of Imperial College London
Summary: 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.
WCS's work was supported by a multi-partner research grant from the Economic and Social Research Council.
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