The Role of Social, Economic, and Political Factors in the Design and Establishment of Antarctic Marine Protected Areas

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In recent decades, habitat degradation and loss, transboundary pollution, resource overexploitation, and a rapidly changing climate have contributed to significant declines in global marine biodiversity. This global environmental crisis has inspired international environmental regimes, such as the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR), to manage human activity and ensure the long-term persistence of biodiversity by establishing large-scale networks of marine protected areas (MPAs). Conservation scientists have developed systematic methods for identifying where it is most efficient to establish MPAs, but the design and implementation of effective MPAs has been hindered by limited resources, conflict over altered access to natural resources, and insufficient spatial data. Prior research has shown that incorporating social, economic, and political considerations into the design, negotiation, and establishment of MPAs can help to overcome these challenges and more effectively achieve conservation objectives. Here, I contribute to the field of conservation planning in three ways. First, I use collaborative governance theory as a framework for analyzing the CCAMLR and identifying the key factors that lead to successful agreements to designate MPAs in the Southern Ocean. Second, I build a methodological framework that operationalizes conservation opportunity theory and enables the collection of spatially referenced social, economic, and political data. Third, I use forecasting techniques to predict the likelihood that various geographic areas along the Western Antarctic Peninsula are successfully designated and suggest how these methods can inform conservation planning. My work suggests that theories and methods from other fields have the potential to improve conservation planning efforts by structuring the integration of novel spatial data, highlighting barriers to progress, identifying structural or procedural gaps in international environmental regimes, and more broadly informing conservation decision-making. Strengthening these planning approaches is increasingly critical to the success of international conservation efforts focused on protecting biodiversity and the ecological integrity and function of the global environment.





Sykora-Bodie, Seth (2020). The Role of Social, Economic, and Political Factors in the Design and Establishment of Antarctic Marine Protected Areas. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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