Protected areas and networks are a key intervention used to address the growing challenge of widespread species decline and other threats to biodiversity across the globe. Many governments choose protected areas as a core strategy for committing to international environmental agreements and so have a vested interest in how well they operate. There are still critical gaps in indicators used at the global level to track progress on conservation targets despite the existence of a number of instruments used to evaluate conservation effectiveness and the obligations of governments to report on progress. Since 2003’s World Parks Congress, a shift in international policy recognition of alternative governance regimes for protected areas, as well as other effective area-based mechanisms, is quickly changing the diversity of what is being valued and counted toward global environmental agreements.

Community-based and Indigenous-led conservation efforts, along with local, focused institutions working in situ where biodiversity loss is actually occurring, are often more effective than global organizations. However, partnerships across scales are significant because local institutions alone cannot address new threats to biodiversity and culture stemming from broader systems. Where this relationship had been largely based on anecdote, growing peer-reviewed evidence from studies is showing the conservation value of effective local area-based management. By empowering community and Indigenous conservation efforts, linking effectiveness measures between scales, and considering biophysical and social parameters within the same framework, conservation outcomes and associated impacts may improve.

This PhD research undertakes analysis of the local and global aspects of conservation measures related to both ecological and social elements.  This is built through: (1) in-depth research in Australian Aboriginal case studies using Indigenous elder co-researchers, (2) analysis of case study data from the global Registry of Indigenous and Community Conserved Areas, (3) a global review of indicators used in Protected Area Management Effectiveness methodologies, and (4) an assessment of the biodiversity values protected by local and indigenous governed protected areas in three countries. A preliminary evaluation of select frameworks that assess social factors in multiple facets of the conservation process also contributes to this research.    

Funding: Indigenous Land Management and Conservation Scholarship
Advisors: Prof Marc HockingsDr Cathy RobinsonProf Hugh Possingham


Project members

Colleen Corrigan


PhD candidate- graduated 2018