Protected area management under climate change: A framework for decision making

Tanner-McAllister, Sherri (2017). Protected area management under climate change: A framework for decision making PhD Thesis, School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management, The University of Queensland. doi:10.14264/uql.2017.330

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Author Tanner-McAllister, Sherri
Thesis Title Protected area management under climate change: A framework for decision making
School, Centre or Institute School of Geography, Planning and Environmental Management
Institution The University of Queensland
DOI 10.14264/uql.2017.330
Publication date 2017-02-10
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Supervisor Marc Hockings
Jonathan Rhodes
Total pages 257
Language eng
Subjects 0502 Environmental Science and Management
0501 Ecological Applications
Formatted abstract
There are over 200,000 protected areas today conserving about 15.4% of the world’s terrestrial and inland waters, and around 3.4% of the oceans (Juffe-Bignoli et al. 2014). They provide an effective means of supporting conservation of ecological, cultural and social values. However, they experience a range of threats that park managers must deal with, and now face a new suite of impacts from anthropogenic climate change. Current protected area management approaches may not be adequate to conserve park values as they become more threatened as climate alters because parks were originally developed and managed with the notion of static boundaries with the aim of maintaining current values. Many existing strategies and approaches do not necessarily answer the questions managers need for practical application day to day management as available tools are either lacking in data or very specialised, making them impractical for natural resource managers with limited expertise. There is a need for a methodology and guidelines to assist protected area managers in understanding how their parks and reserves will respond to future climate change so they can make informed decisions and devise possible management strategies.

The aim of this research was to investigate approaches to managing climate change impacts on protected areas through understanding and addressing management and planning at the park level. Three key points are addressed to accomplish this, understanding socio-ecological attributes for effective park planning and management, understanding park climate change impacts, and incorporating these into decision making and adaptive management of protected areas. This was applied to four of Queensland’s Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage listed protected areas, Springbrook, Lamington, Mount Barney and Main Range National Parks.

Most research and planning for climate change is undertaken at a higher strategic level (i.e. regional level and above) with a lack of implementation on-park. Other research and planning effort has been focused on ’off-reserve’ strategies to complement and support protected areas on a regional scale. Implementation of socio-ecological values and perceptions in park management are only beginning to occur, which is now recognised as an important factor in adaptive management for protected areas to increase effective management. A climate change adaptation management framework was developed (Chapter 2) to strengthen the relationships between climate change science and the socio-ecological drivers, and on-park management. It sets out the context of the situation to clarify the protected area system’s attributes and how they inter-relate. It presents a decision making framework based on a set of strategies aimed at adapting on-park management to climate change. The strategies are aimed at both accepting climate change and the transformations it brings to ecosystems or preventing climate change impacts on park values with an aim to maintaining current systems under new climate variations.

Most protected areas require the cooperation and support of local communities and an understanding of stakeholder values and perspectives. Collaborative approaches to management are most likely when there are shared perspectives on key issues. Chapter 3 presented results of a survey of the local community, protected area neighbours and Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service to gain an understanding of the public’s and natural resource managers’ perceptions of climate change, likely impacts on the local natural environment and management of protected areas. The community, protected area neighbours and park managers in the Scenic Rim had a good understanding of climate change and its likely impacts and were concerned about the natural environment. Managers’ perceptions were largely aligned with the perceptions of the local community but with significant differences in views concerning management of recreation, feral species and fire. Where perceptions align, programs and conservation practices can be undertaken in a cooperative way that should minimise obstacles to successful implementation. Differences can pose challenges to park management.

Protected areas will vary in how they respond to climate related threats and impacts. An important step in adapting protected area management to respond to climate change is identifying how protected areas and their values may be impacted. A set of Bayesian belief networks were developed (Chapter 4) to assess impacts and management issues for three key values (stream-dwelling frogs, cool temperate forest and recreational walking access) across the four Gondwana parks. The aim was to assess how those values may be impacted by climate change, how the parks differ in relation to likely impact and options for management adaptation. Depending on a protected area’s physical and socio-ecological characteristics, the values were affected by climate change differently across the parks and park management responses will need to take account of these differences.

Chapter 5 contains an analysis of the management options (Chapter 2) through a workshop with Queensland Parks and Wildlife planners and managers to assess probable management strategies for the four Gondwana parks for the three key values assessed in Chapter 4. The strategies were assessed for feasibility (cost and probability of success) and the social, ecological, economic, cultural and agency/political implications. Decision making is a complex process and strategies that result in high feasibility (i.e. low cost/high success) are not always the most appropriate. There are many constraints and consequences that can substantially influence management decisions. Most parks will benefit from implementing a range of strategies and will be required to become adaptive in their management. Park managers will have to become more inventive and flexible in their approach to management, more efficient in allocating and utilising resources and make decisions that may go against the community’s and their own principles and values to maintain productive and sustainable protected areas under climate change.
Keyword Protected area
Climate change
Adaptive management
Bayesian belief network
World Heritage
Conservation management

Document type: Thesis
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Created: Tue, 31 Jan 2017, 11:11:30 EST by Ms Sherri Tanner-mcallister on behalf of University of Queensland Graduate School