Evidence Resources

CEE Evidence Syntheses

What evidence exists on the impact of governance type on the conservation effectiveness of forest protected areas? Knowledge base and evidence gaps. (systematic map)



Governance processes and structures that steer social-ecological systems and in situ forest conservation strategies such as protected areas (PAs) can be crucial for effective management and improvement of the conservation outcomes. Nevertheless, knowledge synthesis on how types of local governance and decision-making modes may influence conservation outcomes of forest protected areas is lacking. This is mainly because the evidence on the joint relationships between governance regimes and ecological or social outcomes is generally missing and the knowledge comes from case studies. The research on this topic that use quasi-experimental designs aimed at inferring strong causal relationships is still methodologically in a development phase and the causal effects are hard to isolate. This map describes and maps the available qualitative and quantitative evidence from a large number and variety of sources, both peer-reviewed and grey literature, to answer the following question: What evidence exists on the impact of governance type on the conservation effectiveness of forest protected areas? This across-case systematic map reveals knowledge gaps, methodological limitations of the primary research and generates a list of specific research questions for future research.


Evidence was collated from multiple sources, academic and grey literature. Using predefined inclusion criteria generated in a published protocol, we identified and screened articles for relevance at title, abstract and full text. Evidence was collated using English language search terms and applying no geographical limitations. Identified studies were critically appraised for internal validity (appropriateness of comparator, study design, objectiveness of measured outcomes) and mapped using a predefined coding scheme. We mapped studies according to geographical region, protected area characteristics, governance type, ecological and attitudinal outcomes, and comparator type.


The evidence base is limited in terms of size, quality and geographical area. We identified 57 relevant studies across 66 articles. The evidence base is geographically confined to Latin America and South Asia. Included studies are mostly of medium level of methodological detail, but frequently lack baseline, appropriate comparator or counterfactual to establish strong causal relationships between forest PAs with a particular governance type and a specific outcome. Moreover, most of the studies assess only one, primarily ecological, outcome and there were no studies measuring spill-over effects.


The presented results call attention to the research gaps in the field of conservation governance, provide methodological guidelines and generate specific questions for future primary research. While conducting analysis of conservation intervention effects, research has to account for and report governance variables (e.g. how are decisions made and implemented). Methodological pluralism with both qualitative and quantitative approaches, more robust study designs and assessment of both social and ecological outcomes are needed to obtain a more complete understanding of the PA governance impacts.


Community conservation Co-management Decisions Institutions Participation People-parks interaction Private protected areas State parks Top-down conservation

Who's in the review team?

Biljana Macura
Laura Secco
Andrew S. Pullin

At what stage is the review?


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