Publication


The influence of biophysical and socio-economic factors on the effectiveness of private land conservation areas in preventing natural land cover loss across South Africa

Author(s): Alta De Vos
Link to CST author(s): Prof Karen Esler, Tafadzwa Shumba, Prof Reinette (Oonsie) Biggs, Dr Hayley Clements
Publication: Global Ecology and Conservation
Year: 2021
Full reference: Shumba, T., De Vos, A., Biggs, R., Esler, K.J. and Clements, H.S. 2021. The influence of biophysical and socio-economic factors on the effectiveness of private land conservation areas in preventing natural land cover loss across South Africa. Global Ecology and Conservation
Download publication https://doi.org/10.1016/j.gecco.2021.e01670



Summary

There is increasing interest in the potential of private land conservation areas (PLCAs) as a complementary biodiversity conservation strategy to state-owned protected areas. However, there is limited understanding of how the diverse social-ecological contexts of PLCAs influence their effectiveness in conserving biodiversity. Here, we investigated how the effectiveness of South African PLCAs in conserving biodiversity varied across social-ecological contexts, using natural land cover as a proxy. Social-ecological contexts were represented by biophysical and legal factors (distance to towns and roads, elevation, slope, terrain ruggedness, rainfall, PLCA size, distance to state-owned national parks, and presence of legal protection) and, for a subset of commercially-operated PLCAs, management factors (adopted business model, and profitability). Biophysical and legal contextual factors had low explanatory power in the best model for the nationwide analysis (n = 5121 PLCAs). For a subset of PLCAs (n = 72) we found that effectiveness depended on the strategy they adopted to generate an income, as opposed to the amount of income itself. PLCAs that attracted high volumes of visitors to small properties to view charismatic “Big 5” wildlife were less effective in conserving natural land cover than larger, more exclusive “Big 5” PLCAs and those focused on hunting. Overall, site-specific management factors were better at explaining the effectiveness of PLCAs than biophysical factors. Our findings indicate that conservation practitioners and policy makers need to recognise the diverse goals, motivations and management models of PLCAs when considering how to support them in conserving biodiversity. Future studies could explore whether these trends hold for other proxies of biodiversity conservation, beyond land cover change.