Economic resilience of protected and conserved areas in South Africa

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Titel: Economic resilience of protected and conserved areas in South Africa
Sekundär titel: Suojelualueiden taloudellinen resilienssi Etelä-Afrikassa
Författare: Nurmi, Marisofia
Medarbetare: Helsingin yliopisto, Matemaattis-luonnontieteellinen tiedekunta
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Science
Helsingfors universitet, Matematisk-naturvetenskapliga fakulteten
Utgivare: Helsingin yliopisto
Datum: 2021
Språk: eng
Permanenta länken (URI):
Nivå: pro gradu-avhandlingar
Utbildningsprogram: Maantieteen maisteriohjelma
Master's Programme in Geography
Magisterprogrammet i geografi
Studieinriktning: Ihmis- ja kaupunkimaantiede ja alueellinen suunnittelu
Human & Urban Geography and Spatial Planning
Kultur-, stads- och planeringsgeografi
Abstrakt: Globally, there is a constant shortfall of financial resources in conservation, which has partially been supplemented by combining conservation and conservation-compatible businesses. Many protected and conserved areas in sub-Saharan Africa are largely funded by revenues generated within the area, mainly through ecotourism. While ecotourism revenues are bringing in money into the system, dependency on this single type of revenue source is making conservation areas – or even the whole protected area system – vulnerable to changes in visitor numbers, which are prone to different political or socio-economic disturbances (such as conflicts, economic recession, and epidemics). A sudden substantial decrease in revenues or increase in costs may threaten the existence, extent, and quality of conservation areas in terms of biodiversity conservation. Collecting and analysing economic information on protected and conserved areas can help investigate their long-term sustainability and resilience to financial threats, such as the COVID-19 pandemic and related economic outcomes. In this thesis, I assess how conservation costs and revenues vary between different types of protected and conserved areas, how financially self-sufficient they are, and how economically resilient these areas may be in the face of global changes. The analysis is based on financial data from different types of protected and conserved areas in South Africa: state-owned national parks (South African National Parks, later SANParks), provincial parks (Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife, later Ezemvelo) and private conserved areas. With the use of simulation modelling and resilience theory, I discuss how potential economic resilience varies between protected areas. The findings indicate that there are significant differences in the cost-revenue structure of different kinds of protected and conserved areas, and especially between public and private. Ezemvelo receives most of its funds from the provincial government, whereas SANParks covers the majority of its costs from tourism revenues. Private game reserves again need to cover their costs independently. According to the findings, size is an important attribute to predict the per hectare net income and running costs of public protected areas but has no significant influence on those of private game reserves. For public protected areas, the running costs per hectare are significantly higher for protected areas less than 1000 hectares. Based on the economic modelling and resilience theory, I concluded that private game reserves are generally financially more viable, but their vulnerability lies in their lack of embeddedness within a larger system (e.g., a conservation organization) that could support them during difficult times and require and encourage a long-term commitment to conservation. The economic resilience of public protected areas is more closely tied to the political atmosphere regarding conservation funding: self-generated revenues form only a part of the budgets of public protected areas. In addition, protected areas which have large fixed costs and depend on high tourism revenues are likely to be less economically resilient. Because of the higher running costs and resultant sensitivity of net income to changes in costs and revenues, parks that are home to the “Big Five” species (lion, leopard, rhino, elephant and buffalo) are in a more vulnerable position in the face of disturbances, as the pandemic. To address the threats that upcoming socio-economic disturbances pose to the funding base of protected and conserved areas, more focus should be given to the economic resilience of these areas, especially in countries and occasions where the areas rely on self-generated revenues.
Subject: conservation geography
economic resilience
protected and conserved areas
South Africa

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