Protected areas (PAs) often depend on landscapes surrounding them to maintain flows of organisms, water, nutrients, and energy. Park managers have little authority over the surrounding landscape although land use change and infrastructure development can have major impacts on the integrity of a PA. The need for scientifically-based regional-scale land use planning around protected areas is acute in human-dominated landscapes to balance conservation goals with livelihood needs for fuelwood, fodder, and other ecosystem services. As a first step, we propose the designation of a “zone of interaction” (ZOI) around PAs that encompasses hydrologic, ecological, and socioeconomic interactions between a PA and the surrounding landscape. We illustrate the concept by delineating the ZOI in three Indian PAs – Kanha, Ranthambore, and Nagarahole – using remote sensing, population census, and field data. The ZOI in Ranthambore is three times the size of the park and is largely defined by the socioeconomic interactions with surrounding villages. Ranthambore is located in headwaters and wildlife corridors are largely severed. In Nagarahole, the ZOI is more than seven times larger than the park and includes upstream watershed and elephant corridors. Kanha’s ZOI is approximately four times larger than the park and is mostly defined by contiguous surrounding forest. The three examples highlight the differing extents of ZOIs when applying equivalent criteria, even though all are located in densely-populated landscapes. Quantitative understanding of which activities (e.g. collection of forest products, grazing, road construction, tourism development) and which locations within the ZOI are most crucial to conservation goals will enable improved land use planning around PAs in human-dominated landscapes.
Biological Conservation – Elsevier
Published: Dec 1, 2010
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