Issues and Myths in Protected Area Conservation: Tradeoffs and Synergies (IMPACTS)
Protected areas (PAs) remain a cornerstone of efforts to conserve biodiversity and ecosystems globally. They are rapidly increasing in size and number. Aichi biodiversity target 11 of the Convention on Biological Diversity calls for 17% of terrestrial and inland water areas and 10% of coastal and marine areas to be protected by 2020. The social costs of these areas can be high ranging from eviction to resource use restrictions, and can often impact the poorest people most reliant on natural resources for their livelihoods. International policy commitments emphasise that protected areas should at the very least not exacerbate poverty and should be equitably managed with local people involved in decision-making. Many conservation organisations now focus their mission not only on biodiversity but poverty alleviation and the promotion of human well-being. But progress on creating positive social impacts through conservation has been limited, and the factors involved in success complex and unclear.
The IMPACTS (Issues and Myths in Protected Area Conservation: Trade-offs and Synergies) project aimed to enhance understandings of the social impacts of protected areas, and the ways they in turn influence ecological outcomes, in order to inform more socially and environmentally sustainable governance. The project convened an interdisciplinary expert Working Group who worked collaboratively to review and synthesise the current state of knowledge on the social and environmental outcomes of protected areas. We did this through investigating common assumptions underlying protected area establishment and management using two sources of data: (i) expert interviews with ESPA researchers and associated networks of people and organisations involved in protected area policy and management; (ii) the results of a systematic-style review of the peer-reviewed literature. Through engagement activities such as project workshops, practitioner meetings and publicity the project worked to inform policy and debate on protected areas, equipping decision-makers and communities with knowledge to enhance ecosystem services and human wellbeing.