New Book Successfully Argues for Protected Areas

Talitha Haller

The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) aims to save species on a grand scale, and protected areas are one tool for achieving that.  Protected Areas are central to the Nagoya negotiations wrapping up this week.  They are also the central theme of this book, reviewed by Talitha Haller.

The United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) aims to save species on a grand scale, and protected areas are one tool for achieving that.   Protected Areas are central to the Nagoya negotiations wrapping up this week.   They are also the central theme of this book.

14 October 2010 | Our concept of protected areas for national parks and nature reserves   has focused historically on the conservation of breath-taking scenery and cherished endangered species. Governments and institutions, in turn, relied on ethical or emotional arguments and top-down decision-making to set aside protected areas that maintain the benefits of natural ecosystems.   But now, as   landscapes where national parks and nature reserves operate struggle to deal with rapid population growth, social-equity concerns, dwindling natural resources, and climate change, managers of protected areas experience increasing pressure to recognize and quantify social and economic benefits beyond environmental conservation.

“Arguments for Protected Areas” analyzes how protected areas can provide multiple benefits including health and recreation; water-supply maintenance; preserved food stores; fish stock protection; hazard mitigation; enhanced human well-being; preservation of sacred sites; cultural diversity; tourism; climate change mitigation; conflict resolution; and biodiversity conservation. The books’ editors, Sue Stolton and Nigel Dudley, aim to “identify and quantify links between human benefits and the natural environment” while avoiding the major flaws that exist in the subject’s current literature.

An Eye-Opening Assessment

“Arguments for Protected Areas,” provides a holistic and often eye-opening assessment of the multiple benefits of protected areas, It also evaluates management practices and uncovers implications for issues beyond conservation including protection of ecosystem services, public health, cultural preservation and climate change.

In this comprehensive work, Stolton and Dudley offer well-sourced financial estimates of the benefits ecosystem services provide and, through a series of case studies, suggest logical ways to set up schemes to pay for and maintain these services.   Professionals working with payments for ecosystem services could find value in the book’s examples of where PES might provide funding for protected areas.

In one of the book’s case studies, entitled “Protecting Water Supplies to Caracas, Venezuela,” its writer, José Courrau details the history of the city of Caracas’ water supply, from its beginnings in 1675 by Franciscan priests to its subsequent attempts centuries later to accommodate a growing population. The city began by protecting large tracts of forests and establishing National Parks in nearby mountains. Venezuela has realized, however, that establishing protected areas may not be enough to protect the water supplies of a city facing serious financial limitations. Consequently, INPARQUES, the agency responsible for managing protected areas, is considering ways to charge water companies for services provided by national parks.

Fresh case studies such as this illustrate the difference between protected-area myths and reality.   They provide new evidence of protected area benefits and identify steps and management strategies that maximize these benefits.     Stolton and Dudley largely succeed in their mission of producing a persuasive and well-evidenced book that’s sure to spark readers’ interest in the future roles of protected areas.

Form Fosters Function

The standardized format of each chapter of “Arguments for Protected Areas” allows the reader to clearly understand the issue at hand and easily form mental comparisons across arguments.   Chapters kick off by summarizing an argument, including value and benefits.   This is followed by an overview of protected areas’ current and future contributions and a discussion about management options. Case studies demonstrate examples of benefits gained from existing protected areas as well as challenges faced and lessons learned in achieving them.

Beyond the Usual Suspects

The book’s editors should be commended for offering evidence of protected areas’ benefits that extend beyond the usual case studies. Instead, the book showcases a mix of globally representative case studies from developed and developing countries. In addition, their authors hale from varied fields of expertise, further enriching these real-world examples.

The diversity of case studies allows the book to truly stand out as a call to arms.   It advocates using protected areas to solve a variety of issues including sustainable development, social equity, public health, and human well-being.

One example, found in the chapter on human well-being, is entitled “Population-Health-Environment Approaches in Kiunga Marine National Reserve, Kenya,” written by Judy Oglethorpe, Ali Mwachui, Sam Weru and Cara Honzak. The case follows the story of the creation of the Kiunga Marine National Reserve in Kenya in 1979.It struggled with set backs and community resentment caused by a lack of local consultation efforts. Then, in 2003, the Kenya Wildlife Service and Fisheries Department worked with WWF to implement a new population-health-environment (PHE) approach. The new model “integrates health and/or family planning with conservation activities, seeking synergies to produce greater conservation and human well-being results than if they were implemented in isolated single-sector approaches.”

The Reserve’s local communities faced health issues primarily from maternal and child health problems, malaria and HIV/AIDS.   They also suffered from taboos and a lack of information. The new PHE approach established monthly mobile clinics , Community Health Workers were deployed, drinking water was improved and family planning and reproductive health discussion sessions began. The community’s overall health   improved noticeably. As a result, community buy-in to the conservation of the Reserve greatly increased. Local people were no longer suspicious of the impacts of conservation activities. Fishermen have now traded in their illegal fishing gear for more efficient, larger-mesh nets. Additionally, children who now may receive scholarships to attend environmental camps bring home messages encouraging conservation of   the local turtle population.

Making the Case for Environmental Markets

In some cases, the declaration of a protected area by itself yields significant benefits. However, adequate funding and resources are required for most protected areas to receive effective management, “Arguments for Protected Areas” explores how payments for ecosystem services help meet these funding goals.

Editors Stolton and Dudley devote an entire chapter to the role of protected areas in mitigating and adapting to climate change. This chapter offers numerous insights that may be of particular use to professionals in the land use, land-use change and forestry (LULUCF) and reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD) sectors.   Viewing projects from a more holistic perspective could allow managers to understand more clearly the co-benefits their projects provide above and beyond carbon sequestration. Additionally, the book points out that revenue via carbon markets may be an attractive incentive for governments to set aside new protected lands or to extend the protection of those already in existence.

The editors demonstrate how protected areas offer unique advantages for combating the challenge of climate change… They identify options for increasing the effectiveness of protected -area systems that contribute to climate change response strategies.   And they investigate multiple benefit-sharing schemes and management approaches.

The Past as Prologue

Clear case studies and forwarding-looking analyses provide the reader with a sufficient understanding of the arguments for protected areas. However, we would have appreciated the inclusion of a historical overview as well. While the book’s introduction does devote a few paragraphs to protected area history, it is limited to national parks and nature reserves and does not touch on other forms of historical protection, such as areas protected for sacred sites.

The book’s last chapter provides an excellent summary of protected area benefits, policy instruments, measurement tools and capacity-building obstacles, But we feel the audience could have also benefited from section focused on aligning stakeholder interests. Bringing diverse groups together will truly be one of the greatest challenges to establishing future protected areas and expanding existing ones. The issue’s importance warrants greater recognition in the book.

The book’s few drawbacks are of little significance when compared to the editors’ success providing a clear and credible overview of the many benefits of protected areas. This book is a well executed and forward-thinking contribution not only to the field of conservation but to many other areas linked to sustainable development. “Arguments for Protected Areas” succeeded in its goal of recognizing a wide range of benefits from conservation activities and identifying strategies to maximize the value of those benefits. This work will  undoubtedly serve as a basis for future exploration and understanding of the roles of protected area.

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