Protected area management has a long history in Europe and North America with the first US National Park established in 1872 at Yellowstone followed by the first National Parks in Europe in 1909 (Sweden) and 1914 (Switzerland). Whereas the primary focus has traditionally centred on the preservation of areas of ‘untamed’ and ‘pristine’ wilderness, conservation objectives and values have shifted considerably over time. Increasingly protected areas are viewed within their regional socio-economic and cultural context and objectives are framed in terms sustainable use, development and protection, recognising that cultural and natural heritage are, in practice, interconnected. Indeed, protected areas are increasingly considered to play a critical role in processes of socio-ecological transformation, responding to major socio-environmental trends such as uneven globalisation, individualisation, climate change and biodiversity loss.
With mounting concerns regarding the health and sustainability of our oceans and seas, recent years have witnessed the establishment of marine protected areas across the world. Here, also, it is increasingly recognised that biodiversity goals need to be supplemented with due regard for socio-cultural values and the livelihoods of those who make a living from the sea and the coast. Through my research work at the Wadden Sea coast, I was able to compare diverse practices of protected area management within the context of what is recognised internationally as a good practice case of transboundary cooperation. More specifically, my recent work in this field has focussed on the following topical issues:
– Underlying understandings of nature and landscape and their influence on the management of protected areas;
– The relationship between conservation and sustainable regional development (within and across park boundaries);
– The incorporation of cultural values and perspectives within protected area management;
– The role of spatial planning in the governance of protected areas and the intersections between planning, landscape management and conservation policy.