Protected Area Management & Natural Resource Governance: Exploring Pathways for Environmental Sustainability & Peacebuilding

Lead PI: Beth Fisher-Yoshida

Unit Affiliation: Advanced Consortium on Cooperation, Conflict, and Complexity (AC4)

February 2021 - March 2021
Global ; North America ; Asia
Project Type: Research Outreach

DESCRIPTION: Natural resource management and environmental governance are key factors affecting social stability and sustainability in many fragile and conflict affected regions. Natural capital can be an engine of growth and peaceful development, particularly when governance institutions are transparent, accessible, adaptive to change, and responsive to the needs of multiple stakeholders. Mismanagement, however, can create or exacerbate grievances, intensify political and economic fragility, and contribute to conflict risk. Similarly, ecosystems services are critical for communities and countries for the provisioning and regulating functions they provide. However, when ecosystem function is disrupted, the impacts often cascade across societies and economies, disproportionately impacting marginalized and vulnerable populations and exacerbating social tensions and unsustainable resource use.

The world is facing a series of interconnected systemic threats resulting from anthropogenic pressures including long-term climate change, short and medium-term climate variability, rapid extinction rates and biodiversity loss, increased disease spread, and many others. The impacts of these threats have already resulted in economic losses and human migration, and projections of future impacts are sufficiently dire to warrant calls by scientists, academics, and policy makers for safeguarding large tracts of terrestrial land and broad swaths of the marine area through some form of conservation and restricted use designation.

Protected areas are common tools for the management of natural resources around the world because they ostensibly safeguard the natural capital base and preserve essential ecosystem functioning including both provisioning and regulating services. Protection designations come in many public and private types, including (among others) urban green spaces, sustainable use reserves, pristine wilderness areas, and marine protected areas designed to safeguard fisheries and ocean biodiversity. Each designation has its own blend of allowable and prohibited uses and the management regimes of these areas are equally varied, ranging from de facto lack of management, to top-down fortress style conservation, to highly deliberative participatory systems in some protected areas. Despite such heterogeneity, the common factor across all protected areas is the intentional designation of a parcel of land, sea, or sky as protected from some anthropogenic pressures in order to safeguard some ecological value present in the area.