Understanding and integrating socioeconomic factors into the design and management of marine protected areas

Gurney, Georgina Grace (2015) Understanding and integrating socioeconomic factors into the design and management of marine protected areas. PhD thesis, James Cook University.

PDF (Thesis)
Download (1546Kb) | Preview


Marine protected areas (MPAs) are a key strategy employed worldwide to mitigate biodiversity loss and maintain marine ecosystem services. However, the efficacy of MPAs in achieving biological and socioeconomic goals is highly variable; a significant factor impeding their success is a lack of consideration and understanding of associated human systems. This is particularly true for MPAs designed under Systematic Conservation Planning (SCP), currently the foremost paradigm employed in the design of protected areas. Despite a flurry of activity in the SCP literature advocating the need to better understand and incorporate socioeconomic factors into design and management of protected areas, in practice, socioeconomic factors continue to be oversimplified and treated as secondary to biological factors. Given the ongoing expansion of MPAs globally, there is a pressing need to better understand and incorporate socioeconomic factors into design and management.

The overarching goal of my thesis is to improve our understanding of critical socioeconomic factors relevant to MPAs, and to provide guidance on how this knowledge can be incorporated into MPA design and management. I set out to achieve this goal through three research objectives, which are to:

1. Investigate the socioeconomic impacts of MPAs, and whether these vary according to social subgroup

2. Identify socioeconomic factors related to individual participation of local people in MPA management

3. Test alternative approaches to incorporating socioeconomic factors into spatial prioritisation of MPAs under a SCP approach.

The first objective of my thesis seeks to contribute to building the evidence base for the socioeconomic impacts of protected areas, which is currently weak, particularly in relation to whether impacts differ according to social subgroups. I address this objective by assessing the short-, medium- and long-term impacts of a MPA project on three key domains of poverty (i.e. security, opportunity, and empowerment) over fifteen years (chapter 2), including whether impacts differed by social subgroup (chapter 3). The studied MPA project was designed to achieve the dual goals of conservation and poverty alleviation, and was implemented over five years in four villages in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Using social data from villages with and without MPAs, I found in chapter 2 that positive impacts spanned all three poverty domains, but appeared to occur mostly during the implementation period and subsided when external funding was withdrawn. These findings question the efficiency of the short-term approach taken in many international donor-assisted MPA projects, which are often designed with the expectation that management activities will be sustained and related benefits will continue to accumulate after external support is terminated.

In chapter 3, I assessed whether the socioeconomic impacts of the MPA project examined in chapter 2 differed according to social subgroups defined by age, gender, and religion. I found little empirical evidence that impacts on five indicators of poverty differed according to social subgroups. Environmental knowledge was the only indicator for which I found heterogeneous impacts; over the medium and long terms, younger people and Muslims showed greater improvements compared to older people and Christians, respectively. My findings elucidate some of the pathways through which socioeconomic impacts of MPAs may occur, and hence, may be used to improve targeting of management activities in the study region. Further, the research sheds light on the potential for heterogeneous socioeconomic impacts of protected areas, which is of critical importance given that social inequity can create conflict and impede poverty reduction, thus jeopardising biological and socioeconomic objectives of protected areas.

The second objective of my thesis seeks to contribute to our limited understanding of the factors affecting human behaviour associated with use and management of natural resources. I address this objective in chapter 4 by assessing how individual- and community-scale socioeconomic factors are related to individuals' participation in the management of 13 community-based MPAs in North Sulawesi and Bali, Indonesia. I take an interdisciplinary approach to the latter and draw from literature on human behaviour from social psychology, political science, and behavioural economics. I found three key factors that were related to participation of local people: subjective norms, structural elements of social capital, and nested institutions. There was also suggestive evidence that participation was related to people's cooperative behavioural disposition, which I elicited using a public goods game. My findings highlight the importance of considering multiple-scale interventions other than those designed to appeal to self-interested concerns, such as regulations and material incentives, which are typically employed to encourage participation of local people in management of natural resources.

The third objective of my thesis seeks to address the existing lack of a rigorous evaluation of how the design of protected areas can be affected by treating socioeconomic factors as costs or objectives in spatial prioritisation following a SCP approach. I address this objective in chapter 5 by assessing how treating socioeconomic considerations as costs or objectives, and stakeholders (i.e. fishers) as a single or multiple groups, affect MPA design in terms of trade-offs between biodiversity, livelihood and social equity objectives. I found that the achievement of fisheries objectives and equity tended to trade-off concavely with increasing biodiversity objectives, indicating that it is possible to achieve low to mid-range biodiversity objectives with relatively small losses to fisheries and equity. Importantly, the extent of trade-offs depended on the method employed for incorporating socioeconomic data, and were least severe when objectives were set for each stakeholder group explicitly.

My thesis contributes to SCP theory and practice by elucidating key socioeconomic factors relevant to protected areas and how they can be incorporated into the design and management of MPAs. My results demonstrate the importance of conceptually and theoretically broadening the way socioeconomic factors are considered in SCP, in both the spatial and non-spatial components of planning. Better understanding and incorporation of socioeconomic considerations in design and management of protected areas will help ensure this conservation tool contributes to human well-being and increase the likelihood of gaining local stakeholders' support, on which conservation success is predicated.

Item ID: 41255
Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Keywords: Bali; conservation; development; environmental sociology; fisheries; Indonesia; management; marine management; marine protected areas; marine reserve design; marine spatial planning; MPA; natural resource management; North Sulawesi; opportunity costs; poverty; protected areas; social equity; social impact evaluation; systematic conservation planning
Additional Information:

Publications arising from this thesis are available from the Related URLs field. The publications are:

Chapter 2: Gurney, Georgina G., Cinner, Joshua, Ban, Natalie C., Pressey, Robert L., Pollnac, Richard, Campbell, Stuart J., Tasidjawa, Sonny, and Setiawan, Fakhrizal (2014) Poverty and protected areas: an evaluation of a marine integrated conservation and development project in Indonesia. Global Environmental Change, 26. pp. 98-107.

Chapter 5: Gurney, Georgina G., Pressey, Robert L., Ban, Natalie C., Álvarez-Romero, Jorge G., Jupiter, Stacy, and Adams, Vanessa M. (2015) Efficient and equitable design of marine protected areas in Fiji through inclusion of stakeholder-specific objectives in conservation planning. Conservation Biology.

Related URLs:
Date Deposited: 01 Dec 2015 06:15
FoR Codes: 16 STUDIES IN HUMAN SOCIETY > 1608 Sociology > 160802 Environmental Sociology @ 34%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050205 Environmental Management @ 33%
05 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 0502 Environmental Science and Management > 050209 Natural Resource Management @ 33%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9606 Environmental and Natural Resource Evaluation > 960601 Economic Incentives for Environmental Protection @ 33%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9606 Environmental and Natural Resource Evaluation > 960604 Environmental Management Systems @ 33%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9613 Remnant Vegetation and Protected Conservation Areas > 961303 Protected Conservation Areas in Marine Environments @ 34%
Downloads: Total: 105
Last 12 Months: 11
More Statistics

Actions (Repository Staff Only)

Item Control Page Item Control Page