Understanding Public Support for European Protected Areas
Protected Areas are the most widely applied policy tool for biodiversity conservation. In Europe, protected areas are expected to significantly increase as the new EU Biodiversity strategy sets an ambitious target of 30% of land and 30% of water to be protected by 2030. Despite the popularity of this environmental policy, understanding variations in the level of public support for protected areas remains underexplored. This is an important area of research, considering that, in order for protected areas to be effective, they need to be supported by most users, including local communities and visitors. In this paper, we reviewed theoretical and empirical evidence explaining the level of support for protected areas and proposed a new approach when designing and designating protected areas in Europe. This approach models the process of the introduction of a new protected area as a policy intervention within a socio-ecological system. Specifically, it models how protected area social outcomes or impacts are conditioned and contextualised by numerous intervening factors relating to the social context and governance and management system to influence local actors’ attitude and active support for the protected area. This new approach aims to assist policy makers, conservation practitioners and scientists to plan actions that assist in increasing the level of public support for protected areas in the context of the post 2020 Biodiversity Strategy of the European Union.
Nationalpark Schwarzwald (Black Forest National Park): Exploring the views of local residents on the national park
The Black Forest National Park covers an area of just over 10,000 hectares and is situated in Southwest Germany. Established in 2014, the park is a very popular tourist destination. It is estimated that annually over 800 000 visits the park to engage with activities such as cycling and walking. The park is surrounded by local communities which are directly influenced by its existence. It is estimated that roughly 3,000,000 people live in close proximity to the park (1.5 hours drive radius) and therefore may be able to readily access the Park. The designation of the park initially faced some resistance from local communities with concerns focusing mainly on restricted access to the land, a change in the accustomed cultural landscape and the fact that there would be restrictions in using certain parts of the forest. Currently new plans are being set for the park to be expanded, including by connecting the north and south part of the Black Forest. Given the important role of the park for local communities, the FIDELIO project organised a survey during May 2021 which aimed to capture:
- people’s views on the Black Forest National Park and the environment in general;
- the social impacts of the Black Forest National Park on locals and the distribution of impacts across different social groups (visitors/locals); and
- the impact of COVID-19 pandemic control measures on everyday life in the vicinity of the park.
Matsalu National Park: Exploring views of local communities regarding the social impacts of the national park and changes due to covid-19 on everyday life
As one of Europe's most important waterfowl feeding and resting areas between the Arctic and Western Europe, Matsalu National Park is a true paradise for bird lovers. In addition to birds, the Park also protects the semi-natural habitats characteristic of Western Estonia and the cultural heritage of Väinameri Sea, such as coastal and flood meadows, alvars and wooded meadows, reed beds and small islands. In addition to eco-tourism, fishery and livestock farming are also an important source of income and way of lifestyle for Matsalu`s local communities. This report presents the results of an online survey distributed during October-November 2020 to local communities living inside or near the Matsalu National Park as part of the project FIDELIO. The questionnaire was the result of a collaboration between researchers from the University of Cambridge, the University of Warwick and the Estonian University of Life Sciences. The report explores perceptions of local communities regarding the social impacts of Matsalu National Park as well as their views about the management of the National Park. Furthermore, as the questionnaire was distributed during the COVID-19 pandemic, the questionnaire also explored how COVID-19 restrictions imposed during the pandemic impacted people who live inside or near the Matsalu National Park.
Nikoleta Jones, James McGinlay, Angela Jones, Chrisovaladis Malesios, Jens Holtvoeth, Panayiotis G. Dimitrakopoulos, Vassilis Gkoumas
During the first wave of the COVID pandemic, management authorities of numerous Protected Areas (PAs) had to discourage visitors from accessing them in order to reduce the virus transmission rate and protect local communities. This resulted in social-ecological impacts and added another layer of complexity to managing PAs. This paper presents the results of a survey in Snowdonia National Park capturing the views of over local residents on the impacts of COVID restrictions and possible scenarios and tools for managing tourist numbers. Lower visitor numbers were seen in a broadly positive way by a significant number of respondents while benefit sharing issues from tourism also emerged. Most preferred options to manage overcrowding were restricting access to certain paths, the development of mobile applications to alert people to over-crowding and reporting irresponsible behavior. Our findings are useful for PA managers and local communities currently developing post-COVID recovery strategies.
National Park of East Macedonia and Thrace, Greece: Exploring local perceptions of the National Park and its social impacts
Vassilis Gkoumas, James McGinlay, Andreas Kontoleon, Nikoleta Jones
Language: English, Greek
Protected areas, such as National Parks, are an essential policy instrument for the protection of biodiversity and for the mitigation of climate change. However, the designation of protected areas often introduces changes to the local economy and communities by restricting certain sectors and activities, while promoting others. It is necessary to study the social impacts of protected areas in order to increase their effectiveness and public acceptability.
This report presents the first results of research on the social impacts of protected areas on local communities that the FIDELIO team conducted in the National Park of East MacedoniaThrace (NPEMT) in Winter 2020/21. The report will analyse in parallel quantitative data collected through 281 valid questionnaires of local residents and qualitative data from 22 semistructured interviews with key stakeholders of the NPEMT.
Report in Greek
James McGinlay, Vassilis Gkoumas, Jens Holtvoeth, Ruymán Federico Armas Fuertes, Elena Bazhenova, Alessandro Benzoni, Kerstin Botsch, Carmen Cabrera Martel, Cati Carrillo Sánchez, Isabel Cervera, Guillermo Chaminade, Juliana Doerstel, Concepción J. Fagundo García, Angela Jones, Michael Lammertz, Kaja Lotman, Majda Odar, Teresa Pastor, Carol Ritchie, Stefano Santi, Mojca Smolej, Francisco Soriano Rico, Holly Waterman, Tomasz Zwijacz-Kozica, Andreas Kontoleon, Panayiotis G. Dimitrakopoulos, Nikoleta Jones
The COVID-19 pandemic led to many European countries imposing lockdown measures and limiting people’s movement during spring 2020. During the summer 2020, these strict lockdown measures were gradually lifted while in autumn 2020, local restrictions started to be re-introduced as a second wave emerged. After initial restrictions on visitors accessing many Nature Protected Areas (PAs) in Europe, management authorities have had to introduce measures so that all users can safely visit these protected landscapes. In this paper, we examine the challenges that emerged due to COVID-19 for PAs and their deeper causes. By considering the impact on and response of 14 popular European National and Nature Parks, we propose tentative longer-term solutions going beyond the current short-term measures that have been implemented. The most important challenges identified in our study were overcrowding, a new profile of visitors, problematic behavior, and conflicts between different user groups. A number of new measures have been introduced to tackle these challenges including information campaigns, traffic management, and establishing one-way systems on trail paths. However, measures to safeguard public health are often in conflict with other PA management measures aiming to minimize disturbance of wildlife and ecosystems. We highlight three areas in which management of PAs can learn from the experience of this pandemic: managing visitor numbers in order to avoid overcrowding through careful spatial planning, introducing educational campaigns, particularly targeting a new profile of visitors, and promoting sustainable tourism models, which do not rely on large visitor numbers.
Nikoleta Jones, James McGinlay
Our more recent report on COVID-19 and Protected Areas is now publicly available. We have explored the views of people living inside or near the Peak Disrict National Park on the impact of COVID-19 restrictions and management options during the pandemic.
Nikoleta Jones, Mariagrazia Graziano, Panayiotis G. Dimitrakopoulos
Effective designation of Protected Areas (PAs) requires the careful consideration of their social impacts as these are perceived by people. These refer to a variety of issues such as the distribution of power, social equity, social relations and more importantly the impact of PAs on human wellbeing. A number of studies have emerged in the past decade aiming to capture social impacts of PAs across the world through non-monetary assessments taking into consideration people’s perceptions. Although Europe is the region with the largest in proportion number of Protected Areas across the world it is also a region with very limited scientific evidence on this topic. As the European Union is preparing to implement its new Biodiversity Strategyto ipkmplement this paper aims to provide the first comprehensive review of the literature regarding social impacts of European PAs and highlight new directions for current policy frameworks in the region. The paper focuses on the perceived non-economic social costs and benefits of PAs and identifies 7 key categories of social impacts. We propose that policy planning for biodiversity conservation in Europe should incorporate subjective assessments of social costs and benefits with the aim to achieve an increase of benefits for people and their equal distribution across social groups.
Snowdonia National Park: Exploring views of local communities regarding the social impacts of the National Park, changes due to COVID-19 on everyday life and potential management options during the pandemic
Nikoleta Jones, James McGinlay, Jens Holtvoeth, Vassilis Gkoumas, Chrisovaladis Malesios, Andreas Kontoleon
740 respondents living inside or near Snowdonia National Park expressed their views on the social impacts of the National Park, the impact of COVID-19 on everyday life and potential options for managing the National Park during the pandemic.
Report available in Welsh: Snowdonia_final_report-welsh-29th_june_2020.pdf
Report available in English: Snowdonia_final_report-29th_june_2020.pdf