Posts Tagged ‘transboundary conservation’

New publication on transboundary conservation

Just a quick note to highlight a recent publication of mine in Conservation and Society that is now available online at:  The title is “Governance in transboundary conservation: How institutional structure and path dependence matter“.

I’ll write more in the coming week about some of the specific findings.  In the meantime, enjoy!!

New Transboundary Conservation Guidelines

A few weeks ago a group of transboundary conservation specialists met in Thayatal National Park in Northern Austria.  Thayatal National Park, on the Thaya River along the old Iron Curtain, is part of a transboundary protected area with its neighbor, Podyji National Park, in the Czech Republic. We gathered to craft a new IUCN (World Conservation Union) Best Practice Guideline on transboundary conservation in the 21st Century.  Our mission included revising prior recommendations last revised in 2001 as well as begin to take a more holistic view of transboundary conservation and extend this beyond past notions of conservation = national park-style protected areas.

The project brings together a nice blend of scholars, NGO representatives,  conservation practitioners and park officials from around the globe.  We had 20 participants from 17 different countries discussing a range of issues from management and governance to diverse types/styles of transboundary conservation (formal protected areas, mixed land use types, informal collaborations at international and sub-national scales, etc).  Participants gave talks on case studies covering transboundary conservation projects from around the globe.  We also managed to hammer out a first draft of key terms in the field.  In the coming months we will draft a book on that builds on state of the art knowledge on the subject for a launch at the World Parks Congress next year in Sydney.  I will follow up with a post on developments as the guidelines get closer to approval.

The final day included a nice excursion of rafting along the Thaya River and hiking back through the park.

Czech Castle near Thayatal NP

Czech Castle near Thayatal NP

The Thaya River
The Thaya River

Research Ideas on Boundaries and Natural Resource Management

Compare these two images:


On the left is a photo of the South Africa-Mozambique border in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.  On the right is a classic border shot from the Sierra Club of the US-Mexico border wall.  In both cases, these fences are in the middle of regions with a great deal of transboundary conservation and collaborative environmental management.  In both cases, we have tremendous economic disparity driving illegal migration and law enforcement responses (US-Mexico difference in GDP/capita = 3333% and South Africa-Mozambique = 9750%).  In addition, the US and Mexico struggle with drugs and gun smuggling.  South Africa and Mozambique have smugglers, but they also face one of the worst outbreaks in rhino poaching in recent times.  ALL rhinos in the Mozambican section of the transboundary park have been slaughtered in the past year (see  See also this brilliant response by Biggs et al in Science:

In such environments, it may be questionable to see how transboundary conservation can work.  In fact, these are hardly the most trying cases.  See these efforts in the Korean DMZ ( or these in Israel-Palestine (  My own work over the past several years has focused on working across borders in conservation and environmental management in Southern Africa and along the US-Mexico border, the locations in the two photos.

My latest project, in conjunction with David Manuel-Navarrete of ASU’s School of Sustainability and Forrest Fleischman of Dartmouth College, compares theories of borders and boundaries from common-pool resource literature with that from geography and sustainability to try to understand and bring together ecological boundaries, social boundaries and social conceptions of the first two.  The hope is to better understand effective governance of natural resources and how we can build relationships and work across many types of boundaries.  In the process, we want to create new bridges and dismantle the barriers standing in the way.

Ultimately, I’d like to follow up some of this theoretical work with new case studies in both the US Southwest and in some of the new transboundary parks of southern Africa.  In particular, working with Bram Buscher, we’d like to look at the attempts to reconcile the cross-border challenges of the massif of a transboundary protected area known as KAZA – the Kanvango-Zambezi Transfrontier Park which spans some 300,000 square kilometers across Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.