Examining protected area coverage and effectiveness
Protected areas – national parks, nature reserves, community conserved areas and so on – are in constant flux, being established, abolished or downsized. These changes have a broad range of environmental, social and economic consequences.
The Dynamics of the Conservation Estate (DyCE), a two-year project which sought to understand this flux in protected areas. The project evaluated the coverage, effectiveness and ecosystem service supply within state-, community- and privately managed protected areas in the Miombo Woodlands ecoregion of southern Africa. It aimed to apply the lessons learned to other conservation areas around the world.
Covering much of central and southern Africa, the Miombo woodlands are home to elephants, rhinos, giraffes and other diverse wildlife. Although relatively intact and sparsely settled, increasing development is starting to have a negative effect on this unique African environment.
One of the main goals of the project was to clarify how protected areas were functioning, what conservation values they fulfilled and the extent to which they provided benefits for both species and people.
To discuss some of the changes in protected areas, the project presented a temporal methodology that showed global protected area growth. This methodology was new in that it provided a more accurate representation of how protected areas evolve and showed that generally, protected area growth outweighs loss. It can be used to check protected area status over time and to determine whether countries are on track to achieve the Convention on Biological Diversity Aichi Target 11 (protected areas are both increased and improved).
Another way to show the dynamics of protected areas was to focus on the Miombo and draw from lessons from this ecoregion to understand changes in protected areas elsewhere. As a result, a comprehensive report on the Miombo ecoregion was produced, which highlighted the importance of the region’s protected areas for landscape-level conservation and the unequivocal connection between social and ecological systems in the area.
Given the role of protected areas in the Miombo, understanding their dynamics and impacts was considered critical. The report was produced with the input of WWF partners from the Miombo and is intended to provide further insight into the status of conservation and protected areas in the ecoregion. Although the report is geared toward WWF Miombo offices and their partners, it can also be used by organisations in other parts of the world working on protected areas, landscape-level conservation, or a wide range of conservation-related issues including, wildfire management, species migration, human-wildlife conflict, and livelihood sustainability.
As well as showing how protected areas can evolve over time and providing an in-depth understanding of the Miombo, project partners also produced a report assessing the key management tools for protected areas, focussing on effectiveness, social, governance and equity issues. Protected areas worldwide have multiple and often competing goals so it is important to understand if, and to what extent these are being met. The management tools assessment derived from this project helps to clarify the effectiveness of actions in meeting these goals and highlights the ecological, socio-economic, cultural and spiritual benefits of protected areas. The tools assessment is not an in-depth review but rather a brief overview of the most widely used tools available.
The report, aimed at protected area managers, also provides the WWF Protected Area Group and their International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) counterparts with further insight into the management tools available in the face of a changing protected area regime. Protected areas are no longer only government-run; they are a mosaic of privately owned, community-managed and government-run areas. Having a good understanding of how effective these areas are is important as they must work together to support the well-being of people and nature. This report will also inform a larger body of work on the status of protected areas by WWF and the IUCN Protected Areas Group.
This project has multiple potential impacts. The temporal methodology could provide protected area managers and decision-makers with a more comprehensive understanding of the status of protected areas and, as a result, prescribe more appropriate policies, funding mechanisms, and management techniques.
The Miombo report, which received positive feedback from the Miombo WWF offices, is expected to consolidate their insights into the ecoregion and serve as a guide for other regions, particularly ecoregions of importance to WWF and its partners.
The tools assessment will be used to frame the partnership between the WWF Protected Area Group and IUCN and to inform the IUCN Green List of Protected and Conserved Areas. One of the WWF-IUCN partnership goals is to expand the number of protected areas assessed for inclusion in the IUCN Green List to at least 50 countries and 20 protected areas in each of these countries. The tools assessment would help add another dimension to the evaluation and show which tools are used in particular countries and why.
WWF-Zambia, WWF-Zimbabwe, WWF-Mozambique, WWF-Tanzania, WWF-Germany, UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Microsoft Research, University of Edinburgh, Chinhoyi University of Technology and Twente University.
Nyeema Harris, April 2014; Carina Wyborn, May 2015-May 2016; Laura Becerra, May–November 2016.
Start date:1 April 2014
End date: 30 November 2016
Dynamics of protected area coverage in the Miombo ecoregion, Africa.