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Does conservation may make local communities more vulnerable to climate and other environmental changes?

Tsimane' sectionA new paper in Global Environmental Change, co-authored with Isabel Ruiz-Mallén and other team members from the Institute of Science and Technology at the Universitat Autònomia de Barcelona in Spain, examines how conservation regulations influence the vulnerability of local communities and their opportunities and capacities for adaptation. The paper reports findings from the EU-funded international collaborative project, “Assessing the effectiveness of community-based management strategies for biocultural diversity conservation“, or COMBIOSERVE, which I’ve been involved in as a member of the advisory group.

Working with communities in and around Biosphere Reserves in Mexico and Bolivia, the research examined local communities responses to a range of different stressors. It developed community environmental histories, and used a range of innovative and participatory techniques, including scenarios, as well as interviews, to understand peoples’ perceptions of change and the different adaptation responses they were able to employ.

Communities perceive multiple stressors that act on their livelihoods. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Biosphere Reserve regulations are one of these stressors. However the effects of conservation rules and actions differ in importance and in how communities can adapt in response. Local participation in the co-managed Bolivian Biosphere Reserve seems to facilitate the development of strategies for adaptation. However, in contrast, in Mexico strict conservation constrains local agency to develop long-term adaptation strategies. So although conservation regulations represent another stressor for local people, their capacity to respond and to adapt is influenced by the types of governance and processes involved in reserve management, and importantly the level of effective enforcement of conservation rules and regulations.

The paper is:

Isabel Ruiz-Mallen, Esteve Corbera, Diana Calvo-Boyero, Victoria Reyes-Garcia, Katrina Brown 2015 How do biosphere reserves influence local vulnerability and adaptation? Evidence from Latin America Global Environmental Change 33:97-108 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2015.05.002

The photo shows a scene near the Alto Colorado community in the Pilon Lajas biosphere reserve in Bolivia. Credit: Isabel Ruiz-Mallén

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