Decision support for protected area managers - FORADAPT

09.14.2017 |
Brady Mattsson's picture

The overarching goal of the project ForAdapt was to develop science-based approaches to support protected area (PA) managers when coordinating with stakeholders and neighboring PAs for managing ecosystem services across borders. ForAdapt followed three main aims:

1) Learn about opportunities and challenges for cross-border management

The project enabled learning about opportunities and challenges for cross-border management by administering an online survey of protected-area (PA) managers that are members of the EUROPARC Federation, which is an organization that promotes and supports management and conservation of 250 PAs across 37 European countries.  The first part of the survey asked about factors potentially driving perspectives of PA managers regarding cross-border management within the next decade across diverse regions of Europe. The main barriers to cross-border management based on the survey were the lack of human and economic resources, followed by communication and cross-border differences in political structures and laws.  European policies and strategies that address these hindering factors could be particularly effective means of enabling implementation of green infrastructure networks, with PAs serving as the nodes. A manuscript describing this study is published in the Journal Conservation Biology.

The second part of the survey asked PA managers for their input on the types of support they would like to receive for cross-border management.  These questions were partly based on a conceptual prototype web-portal design that was developed in ForAdapt. About half of the responding PA managers expressed a 60-100% chance of using a either a web portal or participating in a facilitated workshop to support their cross-border management.  Regarding regularly updated types of content within a web portal, the most popular was external funding, and many respondents indicated that economic resources have a 60-100% chance of hindering cross-border conservation.  Case studies of cross-border management and interactive maps were also requested by respondents.  Remaining web portal features such as social networking, computer-based management planning, and guided searches for training resources (e.g., workshops) or consulting services received lower importance. Results of the survey were used to inform the development of multiple new web portals to support cross-border management in PAs. In particular EUROPARC agreed not only to develop a web portal to support PA managers on a range of topics including cross-border management, but also offered to serve as a hub to provide feedback on and promote web portals with similar themes being hosted by other initiatives. Survey results were also used to inform the PANORAMA initiative, which includes an online platform for publishing and searching case studies of PA management around the globe. PANORAMA developers were provided with feedback on the design and usability of a beta version of the web portal based on the results of the ForAdapt survey, and many of these suggestions are now implemented in the current web portal.

2) Support protected area managers to develop joint solutions in transboundary case studies

Within the more general theme of ecosystem management across borders of protected areas, a special focus of the ForAdapt project was using science-based methods to support PA managers in developing joint solutions in transboundary contexts (i.e., where multiple adjacent PAs are separated by an international border). Recognizing that participatory decision analysis has informed real-world environmental management decisions in non-transboundary contexts, this method was evaluated for the first time in two transboundary pilot regions. An iterative 6-step structured decision making process included problem framing, formulation of objectives, consideration of external factors, alternative strategies, consequences and tradeoffs, and sensitivity and recommendations. The first region was the Julian Alps Transboundary Ecoregion, and the participating PAs included Prealpi Giulie Nature Park (“Parco Naturale delle Prealpi Giulie”; PGNP) in Italy and Triglav National Park in Slovenia that comprise a Transboundary Pilot Region for Ecological Connectivity of the Alpine Convention. The second region was located in the Bavarian-Bohemian Forest, and the participating PAs include Bavarian Forest National Park (BFNP) in Germany and Šumava National Park (SNP) in Czech Republic. A similar approach was used for each transboundary region through a series of conference calls and two in-person workshops along with the application of a common set of decision-analytic methods. The participatory decision-analytic process led to jointly agreed upon multi-year resource allocations among several management activities within the two mountain regions of Europe. We propose that a participatory process in a transboundary context that recognizes respective park manager’s wishes for competence, autonomy, relatedness, and iterativeness helps to ensure lasting engagement and commitment to coordinated conservation and management on both sides of the border. 

3) Share results of the project with conservation & natural resource management community

We conducted several forms of communication when sharing knowledge generated through the ForAdapt project, including presentations, webinar, lecture, social media, newsletters, and scientific manuscripts (see summaries above and „Dissemination measures“ below).  These communication efforts reached diverse target audiences including environmental scientists, conservation biologists, and protected area practitioners.

Here, we highlight our collaboration with IUCN in providing input on the design and content of the PANORAMA web platform (  The platform was beta-tested by ourselves and protected area professionals during 2015, and it was officially launched at the 2016 IUCN World Parks Congress.  The platform offers two main features.  First, it allows users to search for existing solutions by using a guided keyword search or by using an interactive map. Second, users can create a personal account for submitting and revising new solutions that they have entered using a standardized online form.  IUCN staff then reviews and suggests any necessary changes to the solution text before making it publically available through the PANORAMA web platform. 

We worked with 16 protected area professionals, most of whom were managers of individual parks, to publish their case studies on transboundary coordination with adjoining parks spanning an international border.  We helped document these solutions based on existing literature and reports in conjunction with direct feedback from protected area professionals who were involved with implementing the respective solutions. We found it beneficial to support the design and content of the PANORAMA web platform, which will be maintained well beyond the lifespan of our ForAdapt project.  

The web platform is one of four components of the PANORAMA initiative, with the other three components being monthly webinars, newsletters that are emailed monthly to members, and workshops to discuss and develop new solutions with protected area professionals and local stakeholders.  These combined efforts promote the transfer of existing solutions among regions and inspire users to reflect and contribute their own solutions to the web portal.  This way, the web portal remains an active hub of knowledge transfer in the field of sustainable development and protected area management.  General information about the PANORAMA initiative along with access to past and upcoming webinars and newsletters can be found here: