A network approach for understanding opportunities and barriers to effective public participation in the management of protected areas

Abstract

Generally, the management of protected areas is accepted to have conflicts, particularly between stakeholders and public agencies. NGOs may be viewed as the key players in implementing management systems, offering essential organizational support, and ensuring information flow within the entire network. Non-participative protected area management often leads to conflicts, particularly between stakeholders and administrative public agencies. Involving NGOs in management decisions can play an essential role in the successful enforcement of conservation programs. In this paper, we merge public perception with social network analysis to identify the network management structure of Iron Gates Natural Park, a Natura 2000 protected area in Romania. By conducting surveys of the local population in 2012 and 2016, we observed an increasing trend in awareness regarding the protected area and conservation methods conducted by the area’s administration. Subsequently, we identified lower percentages of participation by the local population in these activities. The social network analysis applied to management actors and relationships among them revealed a marginal position of NGOs in park management, including a lack of coordination between these NGOs. The network analyses draw attention to the outdated Romanian management system, which essentially works only in theory and is often based on outdated legislation. Our conclusions illustrate the actual collaborative relationships between stakeholders and offer significant recommendations for achieving established management objectives. Public bodies and NGOs should together address ecological and societal issues in the management of Natura 2000 to ensure sustainability, improve trust, and establish long-term viability of natural and cultural heritage.

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Acknowledgement

This work was supported by a grant from the Romanian National Authority for Scientific Research, CNCS—UEFISCDI (http://www.uefiscdi.ro), PN-III-P4-ID-PCE-2016-0483.

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Correspondence to Andreea Nita.

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Nita, A., Ciocanea, C.M., Manolache, S. et al. A network approach for understanding opportunities and barriers to effective public participation in the management of protected areas. Soc. Netw. Anal. Min. 8, 31 (2018). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13278-018-0509-y

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Keywords

  • Hotspots of collaboration
  • Reciprocity
  • Participatory management
  • Natura 2000