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    Review of 'Rethinking entrenched narratives about protected areas and human wellbeing in the Global South'

    Rethinking entrenched narratives about protected areas and human wellbeing in the Global SouthCrossref
    The subject of the paper is both interesting and extremely relevant
    Average rating:
        Rated 4 of 5.
    Level of importance:
        Rated 4 of 5.
    Level of validity:
        Rated 3 of 5.
    Level of completeness:
        Rated 4 of 5.
    Level of comprehensibility:
        Rated 5 of 5.
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    Reviewed article

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    Rethinking entrenched narratives about protected areas and human wellbeing in the Global South

    Attempts to link human development and biodiversity conservation goals remain a constant feature of policy and practice related to protected areas (PAs). Underlying these approaches are narratives that simplify assumptions, shaping how interventions are designed and implemented. We examine evidence for five key narratives: 1) conservation is pro-poor; 2) poverty reduction benefits conservation; 3) compensation neutralises costs of conservation; 4) local participation is good for conservation; 5) secure tenure rights for local communities support effective conservation. Through a mixed-method synthesis combining a review of 100 peer-reviewed papers and 25 expert interviews, we examined if and how each narrative is supported or countered by the evidence. The first three narratives are particularly problematic. Conservation can reduce material poverty, but exclusion brings substantial local costs to wellbeing, often felt by the poorest. Poverty reduction will not inevitably deliver on conservation goals and trade-offs are common. Compensation (for damage due to human wildlife conflict, or for opportunity costs), is rarely sufficient or commensurate with costs to wellbeing and experienced injustices. There is more support for narratives 4 and 5 on participation and secure tenure rights, highlighting the importance of redistributing power towards Indigenous Peoples and Local Communities in successful conservation. There are ambitious global targets for nature protection post-2020. The experience of recent PA governance and management needs to inform this expansion if local people are not to suffer injustices. The evidence points towards conservation that adheres to principles of good and equitable governance, but must be adapted to context specific social-ecological dynamics.

      Review information

      This work has been published open access under Creative Commons Attribution License CC BY 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited. Conditions, terms of use and publishing policy can be found at www.scienceopen.com.

      Environmental studies,Development studies
      ecosystem services,development,equity,People and their environment,Sustainability,social justice,protected areas,Environmental justice and inequality/inequity,poverty,conservation,wellbeing,Conservation,governance
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      Review text

      In this paper, the authors examine five narratives surrounding protected areas through a synthesis of the literature and interviews with key stakeholders. The subject of the paper is both interesting and extremely relevant, being pivotal to guide future approaches to protected areas. Furthermore, the paper is so well written that it was a pleasure to review it (although sometimes this made the paper harder to evaluate, as I so easily became involved in the paper that I forgot to review it!). Still, I think the paper can benefit from some reviews:


      Main points

      1. Although I understand the authors’ choice to have a balanced sampled design of 20 paper per narrative, I don’t really see the point of it in this case – i.e. you are losing information, but not gaining any advantages. Furthermore, the interviews were not selected to focus in each particular narrative, they do not have a balanced sampling design, so why do that to the papers? I strongly recommend incorporating all papers and even including a paper multiple times if it addresses >1 narrative.
      2. I am a bit uncomfortable with the way the narratives are being evaluated in each narrative section. For example, N1 is that ‘conservation is pro-poor’, but instead of only debating poverty metrics, it also discusses wellbeing metrics. The same applies for N2 and N3. The inadequacy of how poverty is measured (i.e. by material values, excluding other important values such as cultural and recreational) is a structural issue and not a problem of each narrative per se. It seems unfair to criticize narratives for not addressing wellbeing when they are not about wellbeing in first place. Of course the lack of wellbeing assessment is a major issue, but this should be part of the discussion and not of the results. I understand that by changing the scope to poverty only, the overall sampling size will decrease.
      3. Currently the paper is very long and the results and discussion overlap quite a bit. I suggest severely reducing the results, focusing solely on the evidence found and not on discussing the reasons behind the findings. This should be merged with the discussion. For example, the first 2 paragraphs of N4 seem to be discussion material, as well as the whole debate of the motivations behind participation in PA management.
      4. Across the results’ section, the authors discuss that they find strong or weak evidence that either support or not each narrative. How did the authors define ‘strong’ and ‘weak’?


      Minor points


      • It is unclear why the authors focused only on African NGOs to validate their five narratives. This could have biased the validation process (which by the way needs to be better described) as perhaps these narratives are not applicable elsewhere. It would be great to 1) add an explanation of the validation process and its reasoning, 2) add NGOs operating in Asia and the Americas in the validation process, 3) present a figure of the validation process, probably in the SM (i.e. the proportion of NGOs in each country that validated each of the narratives).
      • Figure 1 – make the text on the left side bigger, it is hard to see even in a big screen with the zoom at 125% on the pdf.
      •  Why did the authors investigate only 1 or 2 narratives per paper? None had more? Or was there a choice in limiting it? If so, which of the narratives was decided to be included? How was the primary and secondary relevance decided? All these need clarification.
      • The authors comment the publication bias, with most studies being focused in Africa. However, I think here another point is crucial to be made – most of the land protected is in the Americas, but it only had 1 study fitting your criteria. This represents a huge bias in our knowledge. This is crucial to be highlighted as later in the discussion it would be interesting to discuss this as a caveat (i.e. do the results coming mainly from an African context apply to Pas in Latin America?).
      • Selection of interviewers: are they all in the same stage of their career? How much experience they have in PA creation, management and effectiveness assessment? This part is very obscure.



      • A stacked bar chart for each narrative would be extremely useful to help visualize the results. At the moment, it feels a bit like cherry picking, with the authors using a few examples to justify their point. I understand this is not the authors’ aim and a stacked bar chart could help to reduce this impression. The stacks could represent the % of the publications that support, contradict or are neutral in each narrative.
      • Line 506 – missing a space between ‘three showed’
      • Lines 576-578 – can you provide the figures behind this conclusion?



      • Line 725 – space missing in ‘over improvements’


      Box 1: Definitions of narratives N1. Conservation is pro-poor: Because poor people are disproportionately dependent on ecosystem services, PAs that protect or enhance those services will alleviate poverty N2. Poverty reduction benefits conservation: Because poor people are disproportionately dependent on ecosystem services, improving their material wellbeing will reduce pressure on PAs N3. Compensation neutralises costs of conservation: Unavoidable costs of PAs for local people can be adequately offset by providing appropriate compensation N4. Participation is good for conservation: Local participation in PA governance is a route to more effective conservation N5. Secure tenure rights for local communities support effective conservation: Secure and welldefined rights of tenure to land and resources underpin positive social and ecological outcomes in and around Pas.


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