Abstract: In understanding the behaviour of social-ecological systems, much focus has been placed on the role of institutions that govern how natural resources should be managed, and the ecosystems affected by this management. Somewhat less attention has been given to the role played by the natural resource managers themselves. Using privately-owned protected areas in South Africa as a case study, my PhD research illustrates how dynamic interactions between managers and ecosystems influence the sustainability of social-ecological systems. With increasing interest in the role that the private sector can play in global conservation efforts, a pertinent but largely unexplored question is whether private protected areas (PPAs) can conserve biodiversity long-term. The potential for commercially-operated PPAs to generate the funds necessary for their persistence makes them an attractive conservation strategy in an economically-orientated world. There are concerns, however, that (a) their long-term sustainability may be dependent on their ability to become and remain financially viable; and (b) they may be tempted to prioritize profit over biodiversity protection, leading to unsustainable ecological management practices. In this talk I will describe the drivers of financial and ecological sustainability in the commercial PPA industry, based on interviews with 72 PPA managers in South Africa. I will then outline the relevance of these findings for social-ecological systems theory more generally.
Biography: Hayley is a PhD student at the University of Cape Town, South Africa. She came to JCU this year to complete her research under the supervision of Prof Graeme Cumming, and submitted her thesis last month. While researching cheetahs on a private game reserve in South Africa for her MSc, Hayley became interested in the role that private land can play in conservation. Her PhD research is therefore aimed at shedding some light on the private protected area industry. Hayley is interested in natural resource management, social-ecological systems and large predator ecology.