Environmental Management

, Volume 45, Issue 2, pp 403-413

First online:

A Framework for Exploring Integrated Learning Systems for the Governance and Management of Public Protected Areas

  • Bimo Abraham NkhataAffiliated withCentre for Environment, Agriculture and Development, University of KwaZulu-NatalLusaka Agreement Task Force, Capacity Building and Parnterships Email author 
  • , Charles BreenAffiliated withCentre for Environment, Agriculture and Development, University of KwaZulu-Natal

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This article discusses how the concept of integrated learning systems provides a useful means of exploring the functional linkages between the governance and management of public protected areas. It presents a conceptual framework of an integrated learning system that explicitly incorporates learning processes in governance and management subsystems. The framework is premised on the assumption that an understanding of an integrated learning system is essential if we are to successfully promote learning across multiple scales as a fundamental component of adaptability in the governance and management of protected areas. The framework is used to illustrate real-world situations that reflect the nature and substance of the linkages between governance and management. Drawing on lessons from North America and Africa, the article demonstrates that the establishment and maintenance of an integrated learning system take place in a complex context which links elements of governance learning and management learning subsystems. The degree to which the two subsystems are coupled influences the performance of an integrated learning system and ultimately adaptability. Such performance is largely determined by how integrated learning processes allow for the systematic testing of societal assumptions (beliefs, values, and public interest) to enable society and protected area agencies to adapt and learn in the face of social and ecological change. It is argued that an integrated perspective provides a potentially useful framework for explaining and improving shared understanding around which the concept of adaptability is structured and implemented.


Public protected areas Learning systems Governance Management Integration Adaptability