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The role of community participation in the effectiveness of UNESCO Biosphere Reserve management: evidence and reflections from two parallel global surveys


Biodiversity management has traditionally followed two contradictory approaches. One champions ecosystem protection through rigorous law enforcement and exclusion of humans. The other promotes community-based sustainable use of natural resources. Participatory conservation, a major paradigm shift, nowadays strongly guides the concept of UNESCO Biosphere Reserves (BRs). In this paper, the rationale for community participation, and the perception of its effectiveness among BR managers are analysed. Within the World Network of BRs (553 sites in 107 countries) diverse participatory approaches are being tried to advance community-based natural resource management (CBNRM). Data from two parallel surveys, involving managers from 276 BRs worldwide, reveal how far this participation paradigm shift has really occurred, and its influence on managers’ self-evaluated effectiveness. There is substantial regional disparity, although in general BR managers endorse inclusive conservation, despite critical implementation hurdles. The process of participatory conservation carries new dangers for effective biosphere reserve management, when the aspirations of communities and other stakeholders do not ‘fit’ with a predetermined interpretation of sustainable development.

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*Correspondence: Professor Dr Susanne Stoll-Kleemann Tel: + 49 3834 86 4680 Fax: + 49 3834 86 4681 e-mail:
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N. Adger & A. Jordan , eds (2009) Governing Sustainability. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

U. Berghöfer & A. Berghöfer (2006) Participation in development thinking: coming to grips with a truism and its critique. In: Stakeholder Dialogues in Natural Resources Management. Theory and Practice, ed. S. Stoll-Kleemann & M. Welp , pp. 79116. Heidelberg, Germany: Springer.

M. Mehring & S. Stoll-Kleemann (2010) Principle and practice of the buffer zone in biosphere reserves: from global to local. General perspective from managers versus local perspective from villagers in Central Sulawesi, Indonesia. In: Tropical Rainforests and Agroforests under Global Change, ed. T. Tscharntke , C. Leuschner , E. Veldkamp , H. Faust , E. Guhardja & A. Bidin , pp. 413426. Heidelberg, Germany: Springer Publication.

T. O'Riordan (2002) Protecting beyond the protected. In: Biodiversity, Sustainability and Human Communities. Protecting Beyond the Protected, ed. T. O'Riordan & S. Stoll-Kleemann , pp. 329. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press.

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Environmental Conservation
  • ISSN: 0376-8929
  • EISSN: 1469-4387
  • URL: /core/journals/environmental-conservation
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