Year of Award

2022

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Type

Master of Science (MS)

Degree Name

Resource Conservation (International Conservation and Development)

Department or School/College

Society & Conservation

Committee Chair

Jennifer Thomsen

Commitee Members

Brian C. Chaffin, Theresa Floyd, Zachary Wurtzebach

Keywords

connectivity conservation, large landscape conservation, biodiversity, Ecuador, collaboration, capacity

Publisher

University of Montana

Subject Categories

Biodiversity

Abstract

Connectivity conservation, a growing topic across science, policy, and management, is considered an important supplement to protected areas. A diversity of ecological corridors is emerging to restore fragmented landscapes, preserve intact habitats, protect biodiversity, and improve resilience to climate change. Despite increasing expertise and resources for planning corridors, many initiatives face challenges mobilizing science and governance to implement corridors on the ground. In many cases, biophysical science is supplemented with social science to better understand the human elements of connectivity. Similarly, collaboration and partnership are heralded as essential for effective governance of corridors. However, less is known about how these domains interact. One way to view the interplay of science and governance is through the lens of coproductive capacities, a theoretical framework organized around normative, cognitive, social, and material capacities to effect scientifically-informed social change. Given the challenges in implementing corridors, novel tools are needed to integrate science and governance. To advance this effort, my study explores how coproductive capacities support a transition from planning to implementation in the Sangay-Podocarpus Connectivity Corridor (Corredor de Conectividad Sangay-Podocarpus; CCSP), the first corridor formally designated by Ecuador’s national government, linking national parks across a region of extraordinary biodiversity. The landscape is a complex mosaic of land uses and jurisdictions; this complexity is mirrored in the CCSP’s governance model, wherein representatives from government, NGO, and academic institutions collaborate in thematic working groups. I conducted in-depth, semi- structured interviews with stakeholders familiar with the role of science and governance of the CCSP, primarily government officials, conservationists, university researchers, and protected area managers. I collected additional data through field visits around the corridor and from public documents. Findings indicate that the CCSP possesses strong normative capacities, highlighted by a common vision for social-ecological wellbeing in the corridor and shared understanding of threats. Cognitive capacities are supported by biophysical science but lack integration with social science and Traditional Ecological Knowledge. Social capacities vary, depending on the scale of governance concerned. Material capacities are compromised by insufficient and inconsistent funding and human resources. A crosscutting theme, the COVID-19 pandemic has played a significant role in the CCSP’s trajectory since 2020. This study suggests that neither robust science nor collaboration in governance alone are sufficient for implementing corridors. Rather, implementation depends on strong and diverse capacities which are highly interdependent. While this case study is context-specific, it highlights the need for ample, targeted capacity-building resources to support and sustain connectivity conservation that achieves social and ecological goals.

Included in

Biodiversity Commons

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© Copyright 2022 Gabriel Isaac Oppler