Effects of national parks on human well-being

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 National parks vary in their effects on human well-being, finds a new systematic review published in Environmental Evidence today. The study adds to our understanding of how to create and identify most useful national parks, and how best to evaluate existing conservation strategies.

Researchers from Bangor University and the University of London investigated the impact of terrestrial protected areas on local communities. The report’s lead author, Andrew Pullin, said “The real opportunity in reviewing the evidence was to understand how win-win situations are created and why they are achieved in some places and not others. There is some evidence of benefit to local populations from the establishment of protected areas and so the challenge is to understand how we achieve these positive outcomes over a much wider range of circumstances.”

National parks are a well known and widely used strategy for wildlife conservation, and have also been claimed to have positive effects on human well-being through, for example,  the maintenance of ecosystem services and creation of ecotourism industry. However, this systematic review demonstrates that  the lack of a co-ordinated research strategy has resulted in poorly constructed study designs and a weak evidence base in this area. 

This systematic review sets a baseline of evidence and draws attention for the need to design high quality studies backed by the necessary resources to inform future policy. In the conclusions of the article, the researchers call for organisations concerned with both wildlife conservation and human welfare to consider how best to collect the evidence required to ensure more win-win outcomes for both people and animals.