Improving the success of conservation planning: integration of socioeconomic considerations into the design and management of marine protected areas
Abstract: Protected areas (PAs) are a key strategy employed worldwide to maintain marine ecosystem services and mitigate biodiversity loss. However, the efficacy of PAs 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. Therefore, the broad goal of my thesis was to investigate how socioeconomic factors can be incorporated into the design and management of PAs, which I addressed through three specific objectives. I pursued this research through the lens of systematic conservation planning but drew on theory and methods from a range of disciplines including social psychology, political science and economics, and used marine protected areas (MPAs) in Indonesia and Fiji as case studies. The first objective of my thesis was to examine the socioeconomic impacts of an integrated conservation and development MPA project, including whether impacts varied by social subgroup. I found that the project contributed to alleviating three key domains of poverty (i.e. empowerment, security, and opportunity) mostly during the implementation period of the project, and that there was little evidence of heterogeneous impacts according to age, gender and religion. Second, I identified the individual- and community-scale social factors related to participation in community-based MPA management, finding three main factors related to participation: subjective norms, structural elements of social capital, and nested institutions. Third, I tested key paradigms for incorporating socioeconomic considerations into spatial prioritisation, finding that widely-used methods can produce unnecessarily hard trade-offs between objectives for biodiversity, fisheries, and social equity. My thesis contributes to conservation planning theory and practice by elucidating important human dimensions relating to MPAs and how they can be incorporated into the spatial and non-spatial aspects of MPA design and management. More nuanced understanding and incorporation of socioeconomic considerations in design and management of MPAs will help ensure these conservation tools contribute to human wellbeing, and increase the likelihood of gaining local stakeholders’ support, on which conservation success is predicated.
Bio: Georgina is from Tasmania, where she completed her BSc in Marine, Freshwater and Antarctic Science. Preferring tropical rather than Antarctic waters for diving, she headed north to do her Honours research in the Philippines, where she used bio-physical simulation modelling to explore potential reef futures under multiple management and climatic scenarios. Georgina’s experiences in the Philippines inspired her to pursue a PhD in understanding the human dimensions of marine resource management.