PhD CultEs

Reconciling local use and national conservation objectives in protected areas: examining the performance of community-based conservation using the ecosystem services approach

PhD student: Sigrid Engen

The sharing of governance responsibilities is among the emerging trends in environmental management. More effective and informed decision-making is believed to result when people closer to the issues at hand are involved. Increased participation also has the potential to reduce conflicts. In 2009 the Norwegian government embarked on a new reform in community-based conservation (CBC) of protected areas, where the management responsibility of Norwegian protected areas was devolved to local inter-municipal boards. The more than 40 boards have received management authority over clusters of national parks, protected landscapes, and nature reserves.

The ecosystem service approach is similar to the aims of CBC with respect to the endeavors of creating synergies among the diverse benefits derived from nature. A new report  looks into the concept of ecosystem services in Norway based on an overview over the state and trends of Norwegian ecosystems and their ability to deliver ecosystem services (NOU 2013). The report concludes that the ecosystem service approach is an important tool for the Norwegian environmental and resource management, due to, among other things, its strength in communicating human dependence on nature and thus the need to protect it The report is a strong signal of the continued and increased importance of the ecosystem service concept in Norwegian environmental and resource management, and is joined by similar national ecosystem service assessments in other countries.

Concerns have been raised whether the reform towards community-based conservation will cause local use to be favored over national conservation goals, with potentially irreversible consequences A trial study found that local boards redefined national policy and implemented practices more attuned to local needs and interests (Falleth & Hovik 2009) and a policy-analysis of the reform concludes that its major weakness lies in its failure to develop regulatory and institutional frameworks to ensure fulfillment of environmental conservation objectives (Fauchald & Gulbrandsen 2012). A recent investigation made by the Auditor General states that the management model provides a good foundation for local influence in the park management and that it has contributed to reducing the level of conflict. Local knowledge is also taken into account to a greater extent (Auditor General 2014). The reform is still new, and there is limited evidence for the performance of community-based conservation. While the Auditor General states that local influence is gaining importance (Auditor General 2014), less is known about the trade-offs and synergies among ecosystem services important for multiple stakeholders, as well as the balance between local short-term usage and long-term conservation. The main objective of this PhD is to scrutinize how park management balances local use and conservation using an ecosystem services approach. See the project overview in Figure 1.


Figure. 1. Project overview. By looking into past and current management practices and how they have affected and are affecting the natural environment in combination with mapping of social values and preferences this has the potential to increase understanding of how to reconcile local use with conservation.

Main objective

The main objective is to investigate how a Community-Based Management (CBM) reform has affected the management of trade-offs between local use and the long-term environmental conservation objectives of Norwegian protected areas.


  1. Investigate exemption practices by the management authorities before and after the CBM-reform by document analyses and questionnaires.
  2. Investigate how protected areas affect patterns of human disturbance by quantifying the degree of anthropocentric disturbances within and outside Norwegian national parks.
  3. Identify stakeholder interests in local use and conservation by mapping their ecosystem service preferences within and outside the protected areas.
CBC: Community-based Conservation
CBM: Community-based Management
Auditor General (2014) Riksrevisjonens undersøking av forvaltninga av nasjonalparkar The Norwegian Auditor General’s investigation into the management of national parks.  Riksrevisjonens administrative rapport nr 1 2014
Falleth EI, Hovik S (2009) Local government and nature conservation in Norway: decentralisation as a strategy in environmental policy. Local Environment 14:221-231
Fauchald OK, Gulbrandsen LH (2012) The Norwegian reform of protected area management: a grand experiment with delegation of authority? Local Environment 17:203-222
NOU (2013) Naturens goder-om verdier av økosystemtjenester Norges Offentlige Utredninger, Book 10