Protected and Conserved Areas

Protected areas are places where nature can survive or recover undisturbed and where people relax, explore or seek adventure. They are essential tools for biodiversity conservation. They also provide ecosystem services such as water security and disaster risk reduction, cultural and spiritual benefits and homes for some of the world’s threatened human communities. Over 15 per cent of the world’s land surface is in some form of protection, along with growing coastal and marine areas. But many protected areas are under threat, from impacts such as poaching, industrial exploitation, dwindling government support and climate change. At the same time, protected areas themselves, if badly planned or managed, can disadvantage resident or local communities.

Those responsible for protected areas are increasingly expected to manage a bewildering array of issues. Equilibrium Research is deeply involved in helping those planning and managing protected areas to do so effectively. We have worked in partnership with IUCN and its World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA), WWF, various United Nations agencies including the Convention on Biological Diversity, government departments around the world and academic institutions like the University of Queensland in Australia.

Our work in protected areas covers four main issues.

  • Costs and benefits: in seven detailed reports for WWF and The World Bank, a book and numerous papers we have worked with many partners to examine how protected areas deliver ecosystem services and cultural benefits. These range from climate change mitigation to protection of sacred sites. In addition, we developed and use the Protected Area Benefits Assessment Tool (PA-BAT) as a simple way to work with stakeholders to identify actual and potential benefits from individual protected areas.

  • Management effectiveness: with partners including IUCN WCPA, WWF, UNESCO, University of Queensland, Wildlife Institute of India and The World Bank we develop and apply assessment systems and work with protected areas around the world to translate results into strengthened management, specifically though the development of management standards.

  • Technical guidance: we design and test technical guidance to support management, on issues such as management effectiveness, gap analysis, restoration in protected areas, governance, privately protected areas, climate adaptation in protected areas and management of protected areas for ecosystem services.

  • Policy development: underlying this work is a continued engagement with development of global protected area policy, including work with IUCN and the Convention on Biological Diversity on the definition and categorisation of protected areas and discussions on their evolving role in society.

We work from the field up; ensuring that anything we develop is thoroughly tested and applied. Field projects over the last five years have covered many countries including (a partial list): Bhutan, Colombia, the Dinaric Arc region in Europe, Finland, Kenya, Kuwait, Nepal, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, South Korea, Tanzania, Uruguay, the UK and Vietnam.