Story | 22 Sep, 2020

Guide to identifying ecosystem services in protected areas

CEESP News: by Kasandra-Zorica Ivanić, Sue Stolton, Carolina Figueroa Arango and Nigel Dudley

What do protected areas give back to local and more distant communities, if anything?

A new tool from the IUCN World Commission on Protected Areas helps us find out. The Protected Areas Benefits Assessment Tool Plus (PA-BAT+) describes how to run a participatory, consensus-led evaluation, bringing together a diverse range of stakeholders.

Completing an off-line version of the PA-BAT in Alto Fragua Indi Wasi Natural Park, Colombia © Equilibrium Research

A workshop uses a standardised set of questions to identify and assess the level of importance and distribution of current and potential ecosystem services ranging from tourism, through water security and disaster risk reduction, to cultural and spiritual benefits. Open discussion allows facilitators to discuss information on any additional benefits, problems, local experiences and stories, and suggestions for managers. Most important, managers get to hear the views of stakeholders and different members of the community have a chance to interact and share ideas and experiences.

New guide to identifying ecosystem services in protected areasPhoto: adapted from multiple sources including the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005
The PA-BAT+ has been used in five continents, case studies are included from the Western Balkans countries in Europe, Turkey, Colombia, Alaska USA and Myanmar. We’ve found the information gained can often feed directly into management plans or stimulate projects to help communities to benefit from protected areas in their vicinity.

Ecosystem services and related goods (adapted from multiple sources including the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005)

The tool focuses on the legal use of resources which do not undermine conservation, so it is not a cost-benefit analysis; it can however also be used as a fact finding assessment for looking in more depth at issues of resource use, rights, costs and benefit-sharing. 

Identifying the wider benefits of conservation also reassures governments that biodiversity conservation is not simply wasted space and helps donor agencies to plan associated projects. Although to date used mainly in state-run protected areas, the approach is completely compatible with looking at benefits from community-run and privately managed areas, whether protected areas or not, and for ICCAs.

Ivanić, K-Z., Stolton, S., Figueroa Arango, C. and Dudley, N. (2020). Protected Areas Benefits Assessment Tool + (PA-BAT+): A tool to assess local stakeholder perceptions of the flow of benefits from protected areas. Gland, Switzerland: IUCN. xii + 84 pp.