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Balancing effective conservation with sustainable resource use in protected areas: precluded by knowledge gaps

  • NICOLA J. VAN WILGEN (a1) and MELODIE A. MCGEOCH (a1) (a2)

Despite significant expansion of the global protected area (PA) network, this investment has not commonly been matched by investment in their management. This includes managing trade-offs between social and biodiversity goals, including resource use in PAs. While some resource-use activities receive significant attention, the full suite of resources extracted from PA systems is rarely documented. This paper illustrates the potential risk of resource use to PA ecological performance through a survey of resources harvested in South Africa's national parks. Even for this comparatively well-managed suite of parks, significant data gaps preclude assessments of harvest sustainability. Harvest quantities were known for < 8% of the 341 used resources, while 23% were not identified to species level. International Union for the Conservation of Nature Red List conservation status had not been evaluated for 78% of species, and 31% of all species (83% of marine species) had not been evaluated nationally. Protected areas face ongoing pressure to balance people-based and biodiversity outcomes, but whether or not both objectives can be achieved cannot be assessed without adequate data. Managing PAs in future will require consideration of trade-offs between investing in PA expansion, increasing the monitoring and management capacity of PA agencies, and investing in the research needed to support decision making.

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*Correspondence: Dr Nicola Van Wilgen Tel: +27 21 713 7513 Fax: +27 86 400 3046 e-mail: or
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