Tag: community based conservation

Protecting the Amargosa: From Suspicion to Support for a Desert River

Anti-environmental sentiments in rural Nevada have been in the news a lot lately. Here’s a different narrative. In the Mojave Desert of remote Nevada and California, conservationists are part of the community and working to overcome suspicion to protect a vibrant river.

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Traveling Naturalist: Elephants, Kudus and More in Tarangire National Park

The Traveling Naturalist visits Tarangire National Park in northern Tanzania, home to one of the largest herds of elephants in Africa, unusual antelope, migrating zebras, lions and warthogs and much, much more. Can it stay that way? Does tourism help?

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Locally Based Monitoring: Are Scientists at Risk of Losing Their Day Jobs?

Are scientists at risk of losing their day jobs? Well, maybe. A recent study shows that people from remote areas of Papua New Guinea are able to collect quantitative data as accurately as trained scientist, but for a fraction of the cost. This is the second essay in a three-part series featuring blogs by the student prize winners at the University of Queensland’s Student Conference on Conservation Science,

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Sawmills and the Limits of Conservation Science

Science must be the foundation of conservation work, of course. But here’s the thing: science can only get conservation so far. On Prince of Wales Island, forest restoration is an important part of conservation, but so too are relationships with loggers and sawmill owners.

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Marine Fisheries: Does Local Protection Mean Local Benefits?

If a community protects a portion of its fishing grounds, will it actually benefit them?

Or will the young fish produced in protected areas just move hundreds of miles away and benefit communities that played no role in protecting the resource?

These questions were the focus of researchers working in Manus, Papua New Guinea who investigated whether community protection efforts for the squaretail coral grouper (Plectropomus areolatus) actually benefited the community by providing more fish.

Their results, published today in the journal Current Biology, clearly show that local management of this species provides local benefits.

“For years, we’ve been preaching that community-based conservation is a key component to protecting reef fisheries,” says Rick Hamilton, senior scientist for the Conservancy’s Melanesia program and one of the coauthors of the paper. “The idea has been that if we protect some areas, large female fishes will be left undisturbed. They would then produce millions of larvae that spill over into nearby areas open to fishing. But until now that assumption has largely been faith based.”

In Manus, as in many parts of the world, people essentially own the coral reefs near their village. They decide when, where and who can fish in these areas. Some of these areas have no formal designation, but fishers know these customary boundaries. Local communities can thus enact and enforce management and protection efforts.

One of the most important fishes for commercial and subsistence harvest for Manus communities is the squaretail coral grouper. It is also highly susceptible to overfishing. This is in part due to the fact that they form spawning aggregations, where huge numbers of fish congregate in one spot to spawn at predictable times. This makes it easy to overharvest the reproductive population. At night, the aggregating coral grouper sleep in shallow water, making them easy targets for spear fishers.

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Marine Protected Areas: Tokens or Treasures?

It’s a little hard to get your head around what Australia did last November. I live in a country, the United Kingdom, that covers 250,000 km² – not a huge country for sure, but not tiny. Australia declared new marine protected areas that cover almost ten times that area – some 2.3 million km².

Well, as you might imagine, there have been some pretty big celebrations about this, certainly among conservationists, but also among a public that widely supported the declaration.

I’m delighted that Australia has upped the ante for marine conservation everywhere in this way. This sort of move should excite and inspire, in much the same way that Australia’s Great Barrier Reef has already done.

They have shown us that large-scale conservation can be done, and can be done with full participation and broad support, and that it can be income-generating – good for people as well as nature.

But not everyone’s happy. Some – including Bob Pressey, a highly regarded conservation scientist in Australia – has called these new sites “residual protected areas.”

He suggests that these sites are not in the best places either for averting threats or protecting diversity. He also says that they don’t really have teeth, and it’s true that, on declaration, the new parks required no immediate changes “in the water” – that ongoing activities such as fishing, and even mineral extraction can carry on.

That’s worrying of course, and might lead to a sense that they aren’t going to do as much good as might be hoped. But it’s an important first step.

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