Previous PageTable Of ContentsNext Page

Forest biological diversity conservation: protected area management

The ever-increasing impact of human activities on the environment makes the conservation of natural resources, including biological diversity, an urgent and critical task. Two recently released publications add to the many warnings that the future of the world's biological diversity is severely threatened. The 2000 IUCN Red List of Threatened SpeciesTM indicates that the number of critically endangered species has increased since the publication of the last list four years ago.22 The World Conservation Union (IUCN) warns that 24 percent of mammal species and 12 percent of bird species face a "high risk of extinction in the near future". Habitat degradation is the major threat. The publication World resources 2000-2001: people and ecosystems, the fraying web of life, which reports on the results of a pilot assessment of the health of the world's ecosystems (forest, coastal, grassland, freshwater and agricultural), judges that their capacity to maintain biological diversity is decreasing (Rosen, 2000).

By virtue of their importance as habitats, forests - and especially tropical forests - figure prominently in efforts to conserve biological diversity. It has been estimated that half of the world's biological diversity is contained in forests and that probably more than four-fifths of many groups of plants and animals are found in tropical forests (CIFOR/Government of Indonesia/UNESCO, 1999).

Efforts to conserve biological diversity have become more active and widespread over the past 20 years. During this period, biological diversity conservation has moved from being a focus of a relatively small group of environmentalists and scientists to being a mainstreamed feature of national policy and planning throughout the world. Many countries have prepared national biological diversity action plans, and the topic has also become an important issue on the international agenda. The Convention on Biological Diversity, which was adopted in 1992, provides an international legal framework for biological diversity at the ecosystem level, complementing international protection offered at the species level by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES) (see Part III, p. 109). Biological diversity conservation is an important component of bilateral and multilateral assistance and is the focus of concerted efforts by NGOs around the world. It is recognized as one of the criteria of sustainable forest management as defined by regional and national processes (see Part III, p. 116). The Intergovernmental Forum on Forests (IFF) addressed biological diversity issues through special studies and government-sponsored intersessional meetings.23

Values provide much of the motivation for the conservation of biological diversity, which has a recognized ecological, economic, cultural and spiritual, aesthetic and recreational worth. It is also argued that biological diversity has an intrinsic value, independent of its usefulness to human beings (Wilson, 1992; Noss and Cooperrider, 1994; Redford and Richter, 1999). There has been a tendency to emphasize regional and local values but, increasingly, global values are driving efforts to conserve biological diversity. Efforts to articulate global social and environmental values, such as The Earth Charter24 (published in March 2000), could serve as a positive model for social and environmental thinking in the same way that the Universal Declaration of Human Rights has done in the area of individual rights.

There are two major categories of strategies to conserve biological diversity: in situ and ex situ conservation. Ex situ conservation (e.g. gene banks, arboreta, zoos), although an effective strategy for conservation at the genetic and species level, is economically and logistically feasible for only a relatively small number of species. In situ strategies entail conservation both inside and outside protected areas. Protected areas have long been considered the cornerstone of conservation. However, they alone are not sufficient to achieve conservation goals and must be complemented by effective conservation management outside protected areas. There are four major reasons for this:

The adoption of an integrated approach to conservation, involving management both within and outside protected areas, is therefore essential.

While recognizing the importance of all three conservation strategies and the need to consider them in conjunction with one another, the scope of this chapter is limited to conservation in forest protected areas. The past two decades have seen tremendous change in this field, so it is a useful moment to take stock of the situation and to highlight some of the major current issues. This chapter briefly discusses questions related to how much and what land should be protected; what the status of protection is; how the effectiveness of management should be assessed; which approaches are currently being used in protected area management; and how to pay for conservation.


FAO's Global Forest Resources Assessment 2000 estimates that 10 percent of the world's forests are located within protected areas25 (see Part II).

While this is a large area, for various reasons it is still generally not considered to be enough. The representation of different forest ecosystem types in the global protected area network and the effectiveness of different areas in conserving biological diversity vary widely (Miller, 1999). The designation of many protected areas was based on criteria other than their value in terms of biological diversity, such as their scenic, recreational, historical or cultural significance, or the simple fact that the land was of little value for alternative uses. In addition, the size, shape and location of many protected areas are not optimal for conservation. The size of many existing protected areas is too small to provide adequate habitat for some plant and animal species. The shape and location of many protected areas make them vulnerable to negative influences such as pollution, noise, illegal hunting and agricultural encroachment.

To enhance the conservation value of protected areas, efforts have been made both to increase the area of land in protected area systems and to make more strategic choices concerning the protection of additional areas. A major emphasis has also been placed on improving the effectiveness of conservation within existing protected areas, improving the conservation of biological diversity outside protected areas, and managing the two in an integrated way (this is discussed in the following section).

At an international conference convened by Conservation International in Pasadena, California in August 2000, conservation and corporate leaders highlighted the absolutely critical role of protected areas and emphasized that the top conservation priority should be to protect more of the planet's crucial ecosystems.

For the last two decades, international conservation groups that consider the global network of protected areas to be insufficient have called for at least 10 percent of the world's land area to be placed under protected area status. Forests for life - the WWF/IUCN forest policy book (WWF/IUCN, 1996) reiterated this goal for forests. It urged that a minimum of 10 percent of all forest types should be represented in protected area networks. There have been few challenges to this goal within the conservation community - that is, until recently.

Views on what land should be protected have been more varied than those on how much land should be protected. Myers et al. (2000) argue that species-rich "hotspots"26 of biological diversity should be the priority of conservation efforts. Sites with high species numbers or high endemism, or areas with species of evolutionary significance (i.e. primitive species) are often selected for protection. Ecological representativeness is another important criterion used for identifying the choice of protected areas. Some people consider that areas threatened by degradation, or habitats of endangered species (including high-profile "charismatic megafauna") should be first on the list for protection, whereas others consider that areas that are not yet severely threatened may have the best chance of being protected effectively. The identification of conservation priorities has been complicated by weaknesses in the information base, owing to the fact that many areas are poorly known and many species are still unknown or undescribed by science.

Nonetheless, a considerable effort has been made to identify areas meriting protection, and there is beginning to be a considerable convergence of opinions regarding priorities, at least for certain groups of species. Global centres of plant diversity and areas that are important for bird conservation have been identified (WCMC, 1992). Several organizations, including the World Resources Institute (WRI), WWF, Conservation International, IUCN, WCMC and Birdlife International, have attempted to identify the most significant tropical forest sites in terms of biological diversity.

The most recent effort to indentify priority forest areas for conservation was made at a workshop held in Berestagi, Indonesia in February 1999. The purpose of the workshop, which drew on the results of the work carried out by the organizations just mentioned, was to examine the potential of the World Heritage Convention to serve as a mechanism for conserving tropical forest biological diversity. Given its unique position within the framework of international conservation agreements, the Convention is considered to play a potential key role in global biological diversity conservation. The workshop concluded that tropical forests are inadequately represented on the World Heritage List. Among the areas listed, there are now 33 tropical forest sites covering more than 26 million ha. The group of experts proposed a list of forest sites meriting protection under the World Heritage Convention (CIFOR/Government of Indonesia/UNESCO, 1999). The group noted that clusters, chains or corridors of protected areas may provide the only feasible means of achieving forest biological diversity conservation goals in areas where the human population and other factors preclude the establishment of vast protected areas.

An alternative view on the optimal amount of land to include in protected areas emerged from the Berestagi workshop. Sayer et al. (in press) argue that about 100 sites - the existing World Heritage tropical forest sites in addition to the list proposed at Berestagi - representing 3 to 5 percent of the world's tropical forests, could be sufficient to conserve the majority of tropical biological diversity. The authors maintain that funds and political backing for the conservation of biological diversity could be more effective if they were focused on conservation efforts in this "Úlite" set of the earth's most biologically rich sites. It is too early to tell whether this concept, which differs from the long-held view that "more is better" and from the "10+ percent" goal, will be widely accepted. Nonetheless, it does illustrate that the fundamental questions of what and how much to conserve are still being debated.


The status of management

The quality of protected area management is even more important than the amount of area under protection status. The literature is full of references to serious threats to or inadequate management of protected areas. Although it is difficult to draw a coherent global picture of the situation, two recent studies attempt to assess the status of protected areas in some major forested countries around the world.

Van Schaik, Terborgh and Dugelby (1997) examined the susceptibility of protected areas to eight threats (agricultural encroachment, hunting/fishing, logging/fuelwood collection, livestock grazing, mining, fire, road building and hydropower) in important forest countries of Latin America, central and West Africa, South Asia, Southeast Asia and in Australia, Madagascar and Papua New Guinea. They found that threats to protected rain forest areas are pan-tropical phenomena and concluded that "the stark reality of the inadequacy of conservation measures" was true for all but one of the countries examined.

Dudley and Stolton (1999), in a survey of forest protected areas in ten forested countries,27 concluded that only 1 percent of these sites could be regarded as safe from potential serious threats and that at least 22 percent were suffering from degradation. The study identified a daunting array of threats. It also discussed the severe constraints on the effectiveness of protected area management, including: a lack of funds, a shortage of trained staff, weak institutions, a lack of political support, a poor legal framework and weak enforcement, insufficient communication with and involvement of local residents in management planning, inadequate coordination among managing organizations, a lack of comprehensive land use plans and poor demarcation of boundaries. Despite the many constraints identified by this study, some hopeful conclusions were drawn. Among these was the finding that only 1 percent of the protected areas in these countries had been so badly degraded as to have lost completely the values for which they were established.

Threats to protected areas are apparent even in developed countries that spend considerable resources on conservation. The Panel on the Ecological Integrity of Canada's National Parks recently concluded that most Canadian National Parks are affected by ecological stresses (Parks Canada, 2000). Problems included habitat fragmentation or loss, air pollution, pesticide use, exotic species and overuse.

Measuring the effectiveness of protected areas

Methods for monitoring the effectiveness of protected areas are still relatively undeveloped. However, the situation has been the subject of growing concern and substantial efforts have been made in the past few years, owing in part to recognition of the importance of adaptive management. Managers can adjust and fine-tune management interventions in response to the detection of threats or changes in the status of plants and animals. Identifying areas of institutional weaknesses, policy failures or negative social impacts can also help managers make critical decisions.

The effectiveness of protected areas can be assessed in terms of the protection of biological diversity, institutional capacity, social impacts and legal status. Most monitoring efforts to date have been concentrated on assessing the first of these: the effectiveness of protected areas in terms of biological diversity conservation. This has proved to be a more difficult task than expected, as illustrated by the following statements:

"Perhaps the biggest single defect of past programs to conserve biodiversity was that we never really knew whether we were succeeding or failing."

(Sayer and Iremonger, 1998)

"Biodiversity conservation was ... the most critical variable that we had to monitor at each of our sites. If we have learned anything over the past few years, however, it is that conservation success is extremely difficult to define, let alone measure, in biological terms."

(Salafsky et al., 1999)

Challenges to monitoring are posed by the complexity of ecological systems, by the different levels of biological diversity, and by management objectives that are difficult to measure. It is possible to imagine the difficulties of monitoring progress towards the achievement of biological diversity conservation when considering the following two statements of objectives. A Forum on the Conservation of Wild Living Resources, held in the United States, concluded that: "The goal of conservation should be to secure present and future options by maintaining biological diversity at genetic, species, population and ecosystem levels" (Mangel et al., 1996). A task force inquiring into the status of Canada's national parks recommended that the purpose of their management should be to "maintain ecological integrity" (Parks Canada, 2000).

Both inventory and monitoring are formidable challenges, given that a protected area may contain thousands or tens of thousands of species. Not all of them can be monitored and, even if they could, it would not be an optimal use of human and financial resources. This challenge is being addressed through various approaches, including:

Despite progress in this area, considerable work is still needed to develop effective monitoring methods. For example, the use of indicator species could greatly facilitate monitoring, but the relationships between possible indicator species and total biological diversity and ecosystem processes are not well established (Lindenmayer, Margules and Botkin, 2000). Furthermore, monitoring is unlikely to be adopted, particularly where human and financial resources for conservation are limited, until inexpensive and simple monitoring methods are available. Another challenge is to establish acceptable levels of change so that management action can be taken when thresholds are approached. Establishing useful threshold levels will require a greater understanding of ecological dynamics than exists now for most ecosystems.

Recent efforts have been made to develop tools to assess protected area effectiveness from a broader perspective, which includes institutional, social and legal factors as well as biological ones. IUCN's World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) established a task force on management effectiveness in 1998 and held two international workshops on this topic in 1999. A diversity of approaches will doubtless be necessary to accommodate the vast range of ecological and socio-economic conditions around the world, but WCPA's view is that the various approaches should be derived from a single, broad conceptual framework that can be used in a wide range of circumstances.

WCPA has proposed a framework for assessment (Hocking and Phillips, 1999). Five areas of evaluation are suggested:

Other approaches to the assessment of management effectiveness are being tested and used. Two are discussed here - the first uses a participatory approach and the other allows for monitoring across a number of sites:

The field of monitoring protected area effectiveness is likely to continue to undergo important development in the future. Although considerable progress has been made, further refinement of approaches and tools for monitoring is needed. Until this happens and appropriate monitoring systems are in place and functioning well, effective adaptive management of protected areas globally will remain a goal rather than a reality.


The changes that have occurred over the past decade have been described as a paradigm shift in the planning and management of protected areas (Dudley et al., 1999). Attributes of the old paradigm included monopoly control by a central government, protectionist policies, the exclusion of local communities and, frequently, the prohibition of traditional uses of wildlife resources. Attributes of the new paradigm include a shift in the role of government from implementation to regulation; decentralization of decision-making; efforts to involve key stakeholders in protected area planning and management; and increasing recognition of the crucial role of policies, laws and institutions in creating an enabling environment for implementing necessary change and development.

In October 1999, FAO held an international technical consultation in Harare, Zimbabwe on how to reconcile protected area management and sustainable rural development. The meeting documented the complexity of achieving such a reconciliation, but there was also evidence of progress in collaborative management of protected areas and an improved understanding of issues such as institutional reform and the prerequisites for successful ecotourism enterprises.

Integrated conservation and development projects (ICDPs) and community-based conservation (CBC) are two ways in which recognition of the importance of making biological diversity relevant to rural people living in or near protected areas has been manifested.

A second major shift in protected areas planning and management that has emerged over the past decade is the visualization of protected areas as part of larger landscapes. The bioregional approach to protected areas planning is a concept developed by the conservation community to place protected areas into a wider geographic and land use context. It draws on some of the principles of ecosystem management, which has gained acceptance over the past decade among natural resource managers. The bioregional and ecosystem approaches recognize the complexity and dynamism of ecological and social systems. Both call for the involvement of local communities and stakeholders in decision-making and, thus, share some common elements of the paradigm shift described above. The following section discusses the new approaches: ICDPs, CBC, the bioregional approach and the ecosystem approach. Transboundary conservation areas are also discussed.

Integrated conservation and development projects

The reality is that many, if not most, protected areas have people living in or around them. Conservationists have responded to this by seeking to link conservation and development objectives to ensure that some of the benefits of protected areas accrue to local people. This concept is not new; it has simply become mainstreamed in conservation efforts over the last decade. It is an underlying principle for the nomination and management of biosphere reserves, an international protected areas designation under UNESCO's Man and the Biosphere Programme, which was established in 1972. The need for protected area management to regard local needs and rights was clearly articulated at the 1982 World Parks Congress in Bali, Indonesia. This was seen as an alternative to the more exclusionary protectionist policies of the past, which often resulted in the alienation of rural people from conservation efforts.

This view led to growing numbers of initiatives to link protected area management with local social and economic development, often by trying to provide incentives for park residents and neighbours to support conservation and sustainable use. Such initiatives are commonly known as integrated conservation and development projects. They have been strongly supported by governments, conservation NGOs and major donors. By the late 1990s, most plans or proposals for protected area management devoted substantial consideration to relations with local people. But now, more than a decade after the ICDP approach was vigorously promoted, there are still very few clearly successful cases in which local people's needs and aspirations have been reconciled with protected area management. There is growing recognition of the risk that ICDPs may not contribute effectively either to conservation or to development.

The Biodiversity Conservation Network, a large-scale experiment set up to examine the link between development opportunities and the conservation of biological diversity, documented some successful efforts and provides some useful lessons that may improve the success of such activities in the future (Salafsky et al., 1999). It concludes that a viable enterprise linked to biological diversity on a project site can result in the successful conservation of that resource. The conditions, however, have to be right. Marketing constraints and problems related to government regulations and bureaucracies have to be overcome. A large degree of local involvement in the enterprise is critical. The communities have to perceive that the enterprise depends on the maintenance of biological diversity. With these findings in mind, it is possible to surmise that some of the failures of ICDP projects may be attributed less to incompatibility between conservation and development than to flaws in project design and implementation or to the absence of the necessary preconditions for success.

The overall disappointment with conservation-development efforts, however, has added fuel to the debate about whether or not biological diversity conservation is synonymous with sustainable use, as illustrated by the following two opinions. Ntiamoa-Baidu et al. (2000) conclude that: "Interconnecting resource use with biodiversity conservation is considered critically important because rural people depend so much on natural resources for basic survival". Terborgh and van Schaik (1997), on the other hand, argue that: "Strictly protected areas must ... serve for the foreseeable future as the last bastions of nature. Rigorous protection of parks should thus become the priority of efforts to conserve nature."

Somewhere between these two opinions lies the view that conservation objectives are not best met by excluding people from protected areas, but by managing human activities to ensure that they do not compromise the values for which protected areas are established. Some contend that most biological diversity has always coexisted with significant human activities so, as long as extractive activities remain at a sufficiently low level, they should not threaten biological diversity. Linked with this view is a recognition of the need to involve local people in planning and management decisions related to protected area management.

This is consistent with a more general move towards decentralization and devolution in many countries. There is hope that, if local people are given more direct responsibility, they may have more success than efforts that have not involved them sufficiently in reconciling conservation and development.

Community-based conservation

The term community-based conservation refers to efforts that involve rural people as an integral part of conservation policy. The premise is that the participation of local communities in resource planning and management can both improve the effectiveness of conservation efforts and help ensure that local communities benefit from conservation.

The transfer of control over natural resources from the central to the local level, and community-based management systems that can build on science, information and traditional knowledge, are two aspects of the CBC approach that are being tried in various countries.

It is too early to be able to draw many conclusions about the success of CBC when applied to protected area management. Its long-term sustainability has yet to be demonstrated in many places, and the extent to which it conserves biological diversity values is uncertain.

Indications are that CBC may be a potentially viable model in developed countries where conservation can be given higher priority because basic economic needs are met. There are also examples, such as the CAMPFIRE in Zimbabwe and the Community Baboon Sanctuary in Belize, which show that CBC can work in developing countries. The model, however, may be less practicable in some other developing countries. There are many reasons for this. Rural people who face poverty, a lack of economic opportunities and conflicts over scarce resources are, understandably, more concerned with economic prospects than with the conservation of biological diversity. There is a vast disparity between the economic benefits that conservation can realistically be expected to deliver and the needs and aspirations of rural people. Consequently, poor rural people may reject conservation if they are presented with a more profitable option for using those resources (Hackel, 1999).

Economic, social and cultural diversity and power differentials existing within communities pose additional challenges. These have to be recognized, understood and factored into a conservation programme, which otherwise could easily fail to meet its objectives. Similarly, it must be recognized that indigenous peoples' groups and other forest-dependent people have varied attitudes about nature; mistakes have been made by simply assuming that they have a strong conservation ethic that will keep them from overusing resources, such as wildlife.

The means of reconciling the needs of poor rural people and biological diversity conservation are not yet clear. One option is to improve the design and implementation of programmes so that they effectively engage local people and provide them with tangible benefits linked directly to conservation. Brown (2000) offers another option: the formation of multisectoral, multistakeholder alliances, which bring communities together with profit-making interests and government. One thing is certain, however; understanding the local economic, social, ecological and political context is essential to the success of CBC efforts. There are no standard solutions that can simply be replicated; approaches must be carefully adjusted to each situation.

Bioregional approach

The bioregional approach is based on the concept that conservation and resource management programmes should encompass whole ecosystems or bioregions.28 This approach helps maintain biological communities, habitats and ecosystems as well as ecological processes where the landscape has been fragmented by roads, settlements, dams and agricultural development (Miller and Hamilton, 1999).

The bioregional approach considers the conservation of biological diversity in four types of areas. The first are the core wild areas that sustain the wild flora and fauna in their native habitats. The second are buffer zones, or the areas surrounding the core areas, where private and communal landowners and land users are encouraged through legal and policy instruments and economic incentives to manage their resources in ways that minimize negative impacts on core areas. Third, the cores and their buffer zones are linked with other core and buffer zones by corridors that provide suitable habitats for plant and animal migration and dispersal. Fourth, the core areas, buffer zones and corridors are nested within areas dominated by human settlements and human activities. The goal of bioregional management is to establish cooperative programmes across the entire region that provide for the maintenance and restoration of biological diversity while supporting local livelihoods and lifestyles.

The successful deployment of the bioregional approach (Miller and Hamilton, 1999) is dependent on:

The bioregional approach has been used in various areas throughout the world under varied ecological and socio-economic conditions. Many of these experiences are well documented and provide useful lessons (e.g. Miller, 1996; IUCN, 1999).

An ecosystem approach

There are various interpretations of the phrases "ecosystem approach" and "ecosystem management", but most share common elements, including systems thinking, recognition of the complexity and dynamism of ecological and social systems, ecologically derived boundaries, consideration of different time scales, adaptive management to deal with changes and uncertainty, and collaborative decision-making. Some people view the maintenance or restoration of ecosystem integrity or health as the overall goal of management, whereas others consider human needs to be equally or more important (Yaffee, 1999).

The Convention on Biological Diversity describes the ecosystem approach as follows:

"The ecosystem approach is a strategy for the integrated management of land, water and living resources that promotes conservation and sustainable use in an equitable way.... An ecosystem approach is based on the application of appropriate scientific methodologies focused on levels of biological organization, which encompass the essential structure, processes, functions and interactions among organisms and their environment. It recognizes that humans, with their cultural diversity, are an integral component of many ecosystems."29

Many countries are increasingly using an ecosystem approach for planning and managing natural resource use and development. In addition, Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity agreed in the fifth Conference of the Parties in May 2000 to apply the principles of the ecosystem approach, as described above, in managing their natural resources. Two conferences held under the auspices of the Convention have generated 12 principles, commonly referred to as the Malawi Principles, and five operational guidelines for the use of this approach (see Box 19).

Implementing an ecosystem approach is a complex task, and more complicated than implementing traditional systems for managing protected areas and wildlife. The Director of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service points out that, by advocating an ecosystem approach, the wildlife manager is being called on to leave behind the time-tested single-species approach (Clark, 1999). He also makes the point that managers will need help from scientists in identifying the biological goals and objectives they are striving for.

BOX 19

Principles and operational guidelines for the ecosystem approach: the Malawi Principles


Principle 1: The objectives of management of land, water and living resources are a matter of societal choice.

Principle 2: Management should be decentralized to the lowest appropriate level.

Principle 3: Ecosystem managers should consider the effects (actual or potential) of their activities on adjacent and other ecosystems.

Principle 4: Recognizing potential gains from management, there is a need to understand and manage the ecosystem in an economic context. Any such ecosystem management should:

a) reduce those market distortions that adversely affect biological diversity;
b) align incentives to promote biological diversity conservation and sustainable use;
c) internalize costs and benefits in the given ecosystem to the extent feasible.

Principle 5: A key feature of the ecosystem approach includes conservation of ecosystem structure and functioning.

Principle 6: Ecosystems must be managed within the limits of their functioning.

Principle 7: The ecosystem approach should be undertaken at the appropriate temporal scales.

Principle 8: Recognizing the varying temporal scales and lag-effects that characterize ecosystem processes, objectives for ecosystem management should be set for the long term.

Principle 9: Management must recognize that change is inevitable.

Principle 10: The ecosystem approach should seek the appropriate balance between conservation and use of biological diversity.

Principle 11: The ecosystem approach should consider all forms of relevant information, including scientific and indigenous and local knowledge, innovations and practices.

Principle 12: The ecosystem approach should involve all relevant sectors of society and scientific disciplines.


1. Focus on the functions of biodiversity in ecosystems.

2. Promote the fair and equitable sharing of the benefits derived from the functions of biological diversity in ecosystems.

3. Use adaptive management practices.

4. Carry out management actions at the scale appropriate for the issue being addressed, with decentralization to the lowest level, as appropriate.

5. Ensure intersectoral cooperation.

Transboundary conservation areas

Although transboundary conservation areas are not new, they have recently attracted considerable attention (e.g. Biodiversity Support Program, 1999). They are important for both ecological and political reasons.

Zbicz (1999) has found 136 clusters of adjoining protected areas, or transboundary protected area complexes, covering at least 10 percent of the total protected area in the world. Existing and proposed complexes together offer 205 potential opportunities for transboundary biological diversity conservation.

These areas are important ecologically because many areas of biological diversity significance straddle two or more national borders. Effective management of transboundary ecosystems depends on compatible use by neighbouring countries and presents a potential for the creation of transboundary protected areas.

In a political context, it has been proposed that transboundary conservation areas could be developed as "peace parks" to serve as a mechanism for resolving international conflict along boundaries. The idea has attracted considerable interest and support, but is not without its critics. It is argued that the establishment and operation of transboundary parks is an inordinately complex undertaking and that resources would be better invested in upgrading the management of national protected area systems.

Whatever the political merits of transboundary protected areas, it is clear that the ecological reasons for concern about transboundary issues are valid and deserve further attention.


A chronic lack of money to pay for conservation is one of the major constraints on effective biological diversity conservation in most developing countries. The need to improve national financing of protected area systems and to secure international sources of funding is the subject of ongoing discussion and innovation.

Apart from the problem of underfunding, a primary constraint for government agencies is their frequent inability to retain revenues raised in protected areas. There is little incentive for conservation agencies to implement revenue-raising programmes if they are obliged to return these revenues to the national treasury, which is often the case.

Their lack of financial autonomy often discourages initiatives to build links with the private sector (James, 1999). Reduced dependence on government funding, the development of innovative sources of financing and the retention by the agency of earned revenue, so that it can be rechannelled back into protected area management, would ease the situation.

The modification of institutional structures may be another option for bringing about significant changes in financial provision for protected area management. A comparison of traditional government conservation departments and financially and operationally autonomous parastatal conservation agencies in the African region revealed that parastatals spend 15 times more on protected area management than government departments (James, 1999). It reflects a different institutional culture. Parastatal protected area managers took steps to increase and diversify their funding sources. All of the financially autonomous agencies reported that they had initiated new revenue-generating programme fees, including raising visitors' entrance fees, setting up trust funds and soliciting donations from a wide variety of public and private organizations, inviting the private sector to bid on joint venture projects in ecotourism developments, and so forth.

Calls for increased international funds for conservation efforts argue that if biological diversity has global importance and provides global benefits, then the costs of its conservation should be borne globally. More pragmatically, some point out that, unless wealthier countries help cover the costs, conservation will remain weak because of the chronic lack of funds in poorer countries.

The Global Environment Facility (GEF) is the most important international funding mechanism for conservation in developing countries. It is also the financial mechanism for the Convention on Biological Diversity. Bilateral and multilateral support for conservation is another way in which the international community contributes to the cost of conservation in developing countries. Conservation NGOs, too, have long been active in raising funds for conservation efforts. Currently, support for international conservation from all these sources is provided on an unsystematic and unpredictable ad hoc basis. Securing systematic and sustained support for effective and sustainable conservation is clearly an important need. A medium- to long-term goal could be to establish a permanent international funding mechanism for biological diversity conservation. In the absence of this, new mechanisms for supporting conservation and new sources of financing have been emerging.

Conservation International recently devised a new mechanism for biological diversity conservation: a "conservation concession". In September 2000, it leased a large area of forest from the Government of Guyana at the market rate for a timber concession. It will manage the forest for the purpose of conserving biological diversity rather than using it for the extraction of timber. This market mechanism affords a measure of forest protection while at the same time guaranteeing a steady stream of hard currency to the country. Conservation International intends to work with other governments to use this mechanism for forest biological diversity conservation elsewhere.

Conservation NGOs are forming new alliances with non-traditional partners to support their work. The World Bank-WWF Forest Alliance, established in 1998, is one example. Two of the Alliance's goals are to work with governments and civil society to increase forest protected areas by 50 million ha and to secure effective management of the same amount of existing but highly threatened protected forest areas by the year 2005. Another example is the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund, established in mid-2000 by the World Bank, Conservation International and GEF to protect global hotspots of biological diversity. Each partner will contribute US$25 million and will work to raise another US$75 million for a total of US$150 million, which is to be spent on conservation activities.

Another recent development is the attraction of private funds for conservation. While individual and corporate donations for conservation efforts have a long history in some countries (e.g. the United States), new sources of funds are emerging for international conservation efforts.

The United Nations Foundation (UNF) is one such source of new funds. The portion of its funds currently designated for biological diversity conservation will be allocated to projects based on World Heritage Sites. One recent UNF grant of US$3 million was given for four World Heritage Sites in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, three of which are forest protected areas.

The electronic communications and Internet sector is becoming increasingly involved in funding conservation efforts, ranging from creating trust funds for managing individual protected areas to supporting NGO research and conservation activities. For example, the Nature Conservancy recently received US$5 million from the Internet community to assist its purchase of an area of prairie ecosystem in the northwestern United States. Another example includes a US$35 million donation, from a cofounder of the Intel Corporation, to Conservation International for the establishment of its Centre for Applied Biodiversity Science.


Conservation of forest biological diversity has become a much higher-profile concern over the past decade. At a time when many scientists with a long research experience conclude that the tropical forest reserves are in a state of crisis (van Schaik, Terborgh and Dugelby, 1997) and a highly respected conservation biologist writes of "the global onslaught on biodiversity" (Ehrenfeld, 2000), the issue is being addressed with a rising sense of urgency.

Concern has given rise to a wide range of national and international initiatives for the conservation of biological diversity and protected area management. There has been a significant evolution in thought about how to approach effective protected area management over the long term, manifested in efforts to reconcile conservation and development needs, to involve local communities and other stakeholders in conservation, and to manage protected areas as parts of larger geographic, ecological and social complexes.

Despite the changes that have taken place, important needs remain, including:

Making progress in these tasks will require research, experimentation, thought, discussion and commitment from the policy to the field level. Nevertheless, a measure of encouragement can be derived from the way in which problems, both inside and outside protected areas, are being addressed and by the innovative approaches that have emerged over the past few years.

22 Available at:

23 In support of IFF, government-sponsored meetings on forest conservation and protected areas were held in Canberra, Australia in 1998 and in San Juan, Puerto Rico in 1999. The Canberra meeting produced a discussion paper, International forest conservation: protected areas and beyond (Kanowski et al., 1999).

24 See

25 The protected areas referred to are those in categories I-VI of the IUCN classification system (see Table 9).

26 Ecosystems that are rich in biological diversity and are under threat of destruction.

27 Brazil, China, Gabon, Indonesia, Mexico, Papua New Guinea, Peru, the Russian Federation, the United Republic of Tanzania and Viet Nam.

28 A bioregion is a geographic area containing one or more nested ecosystems and whose boundaries are defined by the limits of ecological systems or human communities.


Previous PageTop Of PageNext Page