What Do the IUCN Categories Really Protect? A Case Study of the Alpine Regions in Spain
Published: 28 May 2013 by MDPI in Sustainability
MDPI, Volume 5; 10.3390/su5062367
Abstract: Protected area (PA) coverage is used as an indicator of biodiversity protection worldwide. The effectiveness of using PAs as indicators has been questioned due to the diversity of categories encompassed by such designations, especially in PAs established for purposes other than biodiversity protection. Although international standards have been developed by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), the policies on the ground have been developed independently of the IUCN categories, thus making the IUCN categories dubious measures of biodiversity conservation. Management plans are crucial for the effective management of parks and for guidance on how biodiversity maintenance should be prioritized relative to other goals. We therefore analyzed the aims and regulations of the management plans of alpine PAs in Spain as a first step in evaluating conservation performance. We used content analysis and correspondence analysis of instrumental variables (CAiv) to assess how aims and regulations vary in relation to three explanatory factors: IUCN categories, vegetation zones and autonomous communities. We found that the aims of many parks were vague, without clear indications of how to prioritize biodiversity goals. Furthermore, only 50% of the parks studied had any management plan, which strengthens our argument concerning the lack of clear guidance in PA management. Although certain aims were correlated with the IUCN categories, the regulations showed no clear relationship to international policies, which indicates that these aims do not necessarily influence management practices. Devolution to autonomous communities could be one explanation for the large variation in management practices among parks. Further studies are needed to evaluate the impact of such management policies on biodiversity.
Keywords: protected areas, Evaluation, management effectiveness, IUCN category, content analysis, CAiv, biodiversity, management plan, Spain, Alpine