What does the recommendation that the “design and management of MPAs must be both top-down and bottom-up” actually mean in practice?

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Governing marine protected areas: towards social-ecological resilience through institutional diversity

By Peter JS Jones, Dept of Geography, University College London, P [dot] J [dot] Jones [at] ucl [dot] ac [dot] uk

What does the recommendation that the “design and management of MPAs must be both top-down and bottom-up” [1] actually mean in practice? This is the key question that a recent UNEP funded study on MPA governance (MPAG) [2] addresses, the findings of which have just been published in a special issue of the journal Marine Policy.

Debates surrounding governance strategies for MPAs have to date largely focused on top-down, bottom-up or market-based approaches. Whilst co-management approaches for governing MPAs are widely accepted as a way forward for combining these three strategies, many interpretations of this concept exist and it is applied in many different ways to MPAs in different contexts. This study aimed to explore governance through a case-study approach based on a specifically developed empirical framework – the marine protected area governance (MPAG) analysis framework – to increase understanding of how to combine the three governance approaches. A dialogue with MPA practitioners in 20 case studies helped shape the MPAG analysis framework as it developed, and an international workshop was held on ‘Governing MPAs’, bringing the practitioners together to compare results and further develop the framework. The first paper in this special issue provides an overview of the topic and research methodology and introduces the case studies (Jones, De Santo, Qiu and Vestergaard, 2013)

Drawing on the 20 MPAG case studies, 15 of which are presented as papers in this special issue, the discussion paper argues that MPAs worldwide are facing increasing driving forces, which represent a major and increasing challenge for MPA governance. The MPAG project examined a range of different incentives – economic, interpretative, knowledge, legal and participative – employed to address the driving forces and promote effectiveness in 20 case studies across the globe. The discussion paper argues that, regardless of the MPA governance approach adopted (i.e. government-led, decentralised, private or community-led), resilience in MPA governance systems derives from employing a diversity of inter-connected incentives, with legal incentives providing reinforcement against the potentially perturbing effects of driving forces that could undermine the effective governance of MPAs. The significance of institutional diversity to governance systems parallels that of species diversity to ecosystems, conferring resilience to the overall social-ecological system. It is concluded that, in the face of strong driving forces, rather than relying on particular types of incentives and institutions, it is important to recognise that the key to resilience is diversity, both of species in ecosystems and of institutions in governance systems (Jones, Qiu and De Santo, 2013)

A flyer for this Special Issue, including links to copyright free versions of some papers and a Portuguese translation of the outline, is attached and also available at this link.

Funds are currently being sought for further case studies aimed at applying the the refined governance analysis framework to more MPAs in different regions. This will enable (a) the systematic deconstruction and analysis of MPA governance issues based on the realities of addressing conflicts in MPAs and thereby improving their effectiveness in achieving their objectives, this being the 'bottom line' of the case study analyses; (b) the transfer of good practice in effective MPA governance to other MPAs in similar contexts, using the refined menu of 38 incentives and examples of how they have been combined to achieve social-ecological reslience through institutional diversity. If you have any suggestions for funding or for further MPA case studies, or questions about the study, please contact Peter Jones.

[1] Kelleher G. Guidelines for Marine Protected Areas. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN; 1999.

[2] Jones PJS, Qiu W, De Santo EM (2011) Governing MPAs: getting the balance right. Technical Report to Marine & Coastal Ecosystems Branch, UNEP, Nairobi. Full report including all case study reports (Volume II) available at www.mpag.info

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