Delineating participation in conservation governance: Insights from the Sierra de Guadarrama National Park (Spain)

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The active participation of local stakeholders in governing protected areas is increasingly recognized in biodiversity conservation. While progress has been made in countries to facilitate inclusivity in conservation decision-making, there is limited practical guidance of participatory mechanisms enabling stakeholder engagement. Disentangling formal and informal governance arrangements within protected areas illuminates how stakeholder participation in decision-making is shaped and potentially improved. Here, we provide an analytical framework characterising governance arrangements to examine the formal and informal mechanisms guiding stakeholder participation conservation decision-making in the Sierra de Guadarrama National Park (Spain). We conducted 76 semi-structured interviews and field observations with local stakeholders, and reviewed Park policy documents. Our findings reveal governance arrangements are contingent upon stakeholders’ responsibility (shared vs. concentrated) and influence (equal vs. unequal), regardless of the (in)formality of decision making. We found four types of arrangements that characterise governance of Sierra de Guadarrama National Park—cooperative, consultative, informative, and prescriptive—and identified the mutually supportive role formal and informal mechanisms play in shaping participation. We argue stakeholders’ responsibility and influence are key analytical axes to delineate participatory mechanisms in order to identify challenges and opportunities for more inclusive conservation. Our study provides analytical guidance that could be adapted and scaled up to other protected areas for understanding participation in conservation decision-making.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Science and Policy
Pages (from-to)486-496
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 01.12.2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
We are very grateful to the Sierra de Guadarrama participants and to the comments of two anonymous reviewers. This research was supported by the ENVISION project, funded through the 2017-2018 Belmont Forum and BiodivERsA joint call for research proposals , under the BiodivScen ERA-Net COFUND programme , and with the support of the PCI2018-092958/Spanish Research Agency (AEI) , Federal Ministry of Education and Research in Germany , Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research , Swedish Research Council for Sustainable Development , US National Science Foundation and National Park Service , and University of Helsinki . IRM acknowledges the financial support of the Spanish government's Research Agency ( RYC-2015-17676 ). EOR was funded by the Spanish Ministry of Science, Innovation and Universities ( IJCI-2017-34334 ).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020 The Author(s)

    Research areas

  • Biodiversity conservation, Governance arrangements, Inclusive conservation, Participatory decision-making, Protected areas