Dynamics of the Conservation Estate (DyCE)

International treaties such as Ramsar Convention and the Convention on Biological Diversity aim to increase global coverage of protected areas. However, conserving more places does not inherently equate to the preservation of biodiversity and the resultant ecosystem services.

The Challenge

A necessary precursor to expansion is a comprehensive assessment of the performance, capacity, and resource allocation to the current conservation estate. And, despite protection being our primary strategy in conservation, protected area networks are in a constant state of flux with some areas being expanded and others newly established.

The local demands and national reliance on natural resources also increase pressures on ecologically rich areas such as protected areas resulting in downsizing or degazettement. Tracking these dynamics, and their consequences for socio-ecological systems, are necessary to inform efforts by the conservation community to sustain biodiversity and human livelihoods.

The Response

Our first challenge is to understand when and where protected areas were established and then next to assess how existing areas contribute to our conservation and sustainable development goals.

The DyCE project aims to evaluate the coverage, and effectiveness, and ultimately, ecosystem service supply within state, private and community managed protected areas. This research operates at both a global and regional scale by using the Miombo Woodlands ecoregion of southern Africa—one of WWF’s priority places—as a case-study.

With a collaborative research team comprised of experts in GIS, global change biology, forestry, landscape and community ecology, the DyCE project will:

  • Use sustainability indicators as a framework to review existing place-based performance tool;
  • Evaluate the spatial and temporal dynamics of the conservation estate by comparing 14 versions of the World Database on Protected Areas;
  • Assess performance of protected areas using ecological data such as population trends, net primary productivity, and landcover change as direct indicators of conservation outcomes;
  • Compare conclusions of protected area performance based on ecological indicators with indirect indicators to understand the utility and limitations of management effectiveness methodologies.

The Engagement

This project is being implemented in close collaboration with the Miombo ecoregion secretariat within WWF, which includes Tanzania, Mozambique, Zambia, and Zimbabwe country offices. Through our in-country office support, this project will both partner and disseminate results broadly to relevant civil society organizations and government ministries including focal contacts for the Convention of Biological Diversity.

We are partnering with UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Microsoft Research, and numerous universities for technical support for implementation. We presented initial findings at the World Parks Congress in Australia (November 2014). Final product results will be presented regionally at a conservation capacity building conference (Kenya, July 2015) and the International Congress for Conservation Biology (France, August 2015).

Research Outputs

  • A web visualization platform to reflect spatial and temporal dynamics of protected areas globally;
  • Peer-reviewed publications focusing on protected area coverage and effectiveness;
  • Maps representing protected area coverage changes as well as hotspots of land degradation;
  • Science to action briefs of key findings for national stakeholders and granting organizations;
  • State of protected areas report for the Miombo ecoregion.

The Impact

  • Improved understanding of methods for evaluating the effectiveness of protected areas in delivering conservation outcomes and our progress towards coverage targets;
  • Recommendations for WWF country offices and other regional practitioners in their engagement regarding protected area interventions;
  • Recommendations for civil society organizations and government decision-makers in the Miombo Region to reach Aichi Targets 11, 12, 14, and 15;
  • Established a baseline for emerging threats to protected areas such as climate change and infrastructure development that can be incorporated in performance assessments;
  • Established a framework to expand and scale the approach into other African regions as well as Asian and Latin American ecosystems.

Project Partners

WWF-Zambia, WWF-Zimbabwe, WWF-Mozambique, WWF-Tanzania, WWF-Germany, UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre, Microsoft Research, University of Edinburgh, Chinhoyi University of Technology, and Twente University.

Project Leadership

Nyeema Harris (Luc Hoffmann Institute Fellow), Josh Tewksbury (Luc Hoffmann Institute)

Dynamics of protected area coverage in the Miombo ecoregion, Africa.

A repeated shortcoming of conservation efforts is measuring impact. It remains unclear even what the Convention on Biological Diversity land conservation targets of 17% by 2020 (Aichi Target 11) actually gains us. How are livelihoods improved and trends of declining species reverted? What biomes and irreplaceable habitats are maintained? DyCE will evaluate the socio-economic and ecological implications of changes in protected area networks using spatially and temporally explicit approaches across multiple scales.

Nyeema Harris PhD – Luc Hoffmann Institute, Director’s Fellow

Chris JohnsonDynamics of the Conservation Estate