Integrated conservation and development: Evaluating a community-based marine protected area project for equality of socioeconomic impacts

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Despite the prevalence of protected areas, evidence of their impacts on people is weak and remains hotly contested in conservation policy.Akey question in this debate is whether socioeconomic impacts vary according to social subgroup. Given that social inequity can create conflict and impede poverty reduction, understanding how protected areas differentially affect people is critical to designing them to achieve social and biological goals. Understanding heterogeneous responses to protected areas can improve targeting of management activities and help elucidate the pathways through which impacts of protected areas occur. Here, we assessed whether the socioeconomic impacts of marine protected areas (MPAs)—designed to achieve goals for both conservation and poverty alleviation—differed according to age, gender or religion in associated villages in North Sulawesi, Indonesia. Using data from pre-, midand post-implementation of the MPAs for control and project villages, we found little empirical evidence that impacts on five key socioeconomic indicators related to poverty differed according to social subgroup. We found suggestive empirical evidence that the effect of the MPAs on environmental knowledge differed by age and religion; over the medium and long terms, younger people and Muslims showed greater improvements compared with older people and Christians, respectively.

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Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences