Falling “fortresses”: Unlocking Governance Entanglements and Shifting Knowledge Paradigms to Counter Climate Change Threats in Biodiversity Conservation

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Biodiversity conservation is facing unprecedented challenges at the intersection of rapidly changing climates, widespread ecosystem degradation under the influence of global warming and resultant human tragedies over livelihood, habitation, adaptation and coping needs. These challenges are more acute across biodiversity hotspots in the Global South. This study disentangles the complex interplay to propose alternative paradigms of governance and policy thinking necessary for sustainable biodiversity conservation. Climate change impacts are exposing critical deficiencies of ‘scientific forest management’ pursued for over a century. For example, recurrent disasters and ecological shifts are increasingly obfuscating cognitive and physical boundaries between the reserve forest and human habitations; putting additional stress on livelihoods which in turn escalate pressures on the forest commons and fuel further conflicts between conservation governance and local communities. Instead of assisting in adaptation, the existing conservation governance mechanisms are producing further conflicts between humans and non-humans; livelihoods and conservation; disaster management and development. Conducted in the Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve –world’s largest mangrove forest ecosystem and a climate change hotspot located along the Bay of Bengal across India and Bangladesh –the study finds an urgent need of rethinking and recalibrating biodiversity conservation in the times of climate change. However, institutional and market-based approaches such as promoting ecotourism or mangrove plantations may have little impact in this regard, the study finds. Instead, integrating cultural ecosystem services and co-producing knowledge will be critical to tackle the entanglements of climate change and its impacts on local lives, livelihoods and biodiversity conservation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)305-322
Number of pages18
Publication statusPublished - 01.02.2022

Bibliographical note

© 2021. The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature.

    Research areas

  • Biodiversity conservation, Boundaries, Climate change, Cultural ecosystem services, Knowledge co-production, Sundarbans
  • Environmental Governance