Skip to main content
    • Aa
    • Aa

Exploring ‘islandness’ and the impacts of nature conservation through the lens of wellbeing


Motivated by growing concern as to the many threats that islands face, subsequent calls for more extensive island nature conservation and recent discussion in the conservation literature about the potential for wellbeing as a useful approach to understanding how conservation affects people's lives, this paper reviews the literature in order to explore how islands and wellbeing relate and how conservation might impact that relationship. We apply a three-dimensional concept of social wellbeing to structure the discussion and illustrate the importance of understanding island–wellbeing interactions in the context of material, relational and subjective dimensions, using examples from the literature. We posit that islands and their shared characteristics of ‘islandness’ provide a useful setting in which to apply social wellbeing as a generalizable framework, which is particularly adept at illuminating the relevance of social relationships and subjective perceptions in island life – aspects that are often marginalized in more economically focused conservation impact assessments. The paper then explores in more depth the influences of island nature conservation on social wellbeing and sustainability outcomes using two case studies from the global north (UK islands) and global south (the Solomon Islands). We conclude that conservation approaches that engage with all three dimensions of wellbeing seem to be associated with success.

Corresponding author
*Correspondence: Dr Sarah Coulthard email
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

K.E. Abernethy , Ö Bodin , P. Olsson , Z. Hilly & A. Schwarz (2014) Two steps forward, two steps back: the role of innovation in transforming towards community-based marine resource management in Solomon Islands. Global Environmental Change 28: 309321.

M. Agarwala , G. Atkinson , B. Palmer Fry , K. Homewood , S. Mourato , J.M. Rowcliffe , G. Wallace & E.J. Milner-Gulland (2014) Assessing the relationship between human well-being and ecosystem services: a review of frameworks. Conservation and Society 12: 437449.

S. Alkire (2002) Dimensions of human development. World Development 30: 181205.

G. Baldacchino & G. Berttram (2009) The beak of the finch: insights into the economic development of small economies. The Round Table 98: 141160

N.A. Bainton (2009) Keeping the network out of view: mining, distinctions and exclusion in Melanesia. Oceania 79: 1833.

V. Ballu , M.-N. Bouin , P. Siméoni , W.C. Crawford , S. Calmant , J.-M. Boré , T. Kanas & B. Pelletier (2011) Comparing the role of absolute sea-level rise and vertical tectonic motions in coastal flooding, Torres Islands (Vanuatu). Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America 108: 1301913022.

N.C. Ban , M. Mills , J. Tam , C.C. Hicks , S. Klain , N. Stoeckl , M.C. Bottrill , J. Levine , R.L. Pressey , T. Satterfield & K. Chan (2013) A social–ecological approach to conservation planning: embedding social considerations. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 11: 194202.

L. Briguglio (1995) Small island developing states and their economic vulnerabilities. World Development 23: 16151632.

V. Burholt , T. Scharf & K. Walsh (2013) Imagery and imaginary of islander identity: older people and migration in Irish small-island communities. Journal of Rural Studies 31: 112.

J.E. Cinner & S. Aswani (2007) Integrating customary management into marine conservation. Biological Conservation 140: 201216.

P.J. Cohen & T.J. Alexander (2013) Catch rates, composition and fish size from reefs managed with periodically-harvested closures. PLoS One 8: e73383.

J. Connell (2013) Islands at Risk?: Environments, Economies and Contemporary Change. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing.

S. Coulthard , D. Johnson & J.A. McGregor (2011) Poverty, sustainability and human wellbeing: a social wellbeing approach to the global fisheries crisis. Global Environmental Change 21: 453463.

S.J. Foale (2001) Where's our development? Landowner aspirations and environmentalist agendas in Western Solomon Islands. The Asia Pacific Journal of Anthropology 2: 4467.

S. Foale , P. Cohen , S. Januchowski-Hartley , A. Wenger & M. Macintyre (2011) Tenure and taboos: origins and implications for fisheries in the Pacific. Fish and Fisheries 12: 357369.

I. Gough & J.A. McGregor (eds) (2007). Wellbeing in Developing Countries: From Theory to Research. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

P Guillotreau , L. Campling & J. Robinson (2012) Vulnerability of small island fishery economies to climate and institutional changes. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 4: 287291.

P. Gustafson (2001) Roots and routes: exploring the relationship between place attachment and mobility. Environment and Behavior 33: 667686.

C.C. Hicks , L.B. Crowder , N.A. Graham , J.N. Kittinger & E.L. Cornu (2016) Social drivers forewarn of marine regime shifts. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 14: 252260.

E. Hviding (2003) Contested rainforests, NGOs, and projects of desire in Solomon Islands. International Social Science Journal 55: 539554.

S. Jentoft (2004) Institutions in fisheries: what they are, what they do, and how they change. Marine Policy 28: 137149.

G. Keppel , C. Morrison , D. Watling , M.V. Tuiwawa & I.A. Rounds (2012) Conservation in tropical Pacific Island countries: why most current approaches are failing. Conservation Letters 5: 256265.

S.A. Kerr (2005) What is small island sustainable development about? Ocean & Coastal Management 48: 503524.

F. Mackenzie (2010) A common claim: community land ownership in the Outer Hebrides, Scotland. International Journal of the Commons 4: 319344.

M. McGillivray , N. Wim & A.U. Santos-Paulino (2010) Vulnerability, trade, financial flows and state failure in small island developing states. The Journal of Development Studies 46: 815827.

J.A. McGregor , L. Camfield & A. Woodcock (2009) Needs, wants and goals: wellbeing, quality of life and public policy. Applied Research in Quality of Life 4: 135154.

E.J. Milner-Gulland , J.A. McGregor , M. Agarwala , G. Atkinson , P. Bevan , T. Clements , T. Daw , K. Homewood , N. Kumpel , J. Lewis & S. Mourato (2014) Accounting for the impact of conservation on human well-Being. Conservation Biology 28: 11601166.

A. Mountz (2015) Political geography II: islands and archipelagos. Progress in Human Geography 39: 636646.

E.K. Nisbet , J.M. Zelenski & S.A. Murphy (2011) Happiness is in our nature: exploring nature relatedness as a contributor to subjective well-being. Journal of Happiness Studies 12: 303322.

P.D. Nunn (2004) Through a mist on the ocean: human understanding of island environments. Tijdschrift voor Economische en Sociale Geografie 95: 311325.

B. Palmer Fry , M. Agarwala , G. Atkinson , T. Clements , K. Homewood , S. Mourato , J.M. Rowcliffe , G. Wallace & E.J. Milner-Gulland (2017) Monitoring local wellbeing in environmental interventions: a consideration of practical trade-offs. Oryx 51: 19.

M. Pieraccini & E Cardwell (2016) Divergent perceptions of new marine protected areas: comparing legal consciousness in Scilly and Barra, UK. Ocean & Coastal Management 119: 2129.

D. Pitt (1980) Sociology, islands and boundaries. World Development 8: 10511059.

A. Reenberg , T. Birch-Thomsen , O. Mertz , B. Fog & S. Christiansen (2008) Adaptation of human coping strategies in a small island society in the SW pacific – 50 years of change in the coupled human–environment system on Bellona, Solomon Islands. Human Ecology 36: 807819.

N. Schilling-Estes (2002) On the nature of isolated and post-isolated dialects: innovation, variation and differentiation. Journal of Sociolinguistics 6: 6485.

S.C. White (2010) Analysing wellbeing: a framework for development practice. Development in Practice 20: 158172.

E. Woodhouse , K.M. Homewood , E. Beauchamp , T. Clements , J.T. McCabe , D. Wilkie & E.J. Milner-Gulland (2015) Guiding principles for evaluating the impacts of conservation interventions on human well-being. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society of London. Series B, Biological Sciences 370: 20150103.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Environmental Conservation
  • ISSN: 0376-8929
  • EISSN: 1469-4387
  • URL: /core/journals/environmental-conservation
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 7
Total number of PDF views: 87 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 454 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between 3rd May 2017 - 23rd September 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.