This Ph.D. project will analyze the mechanisms that Protected Areas (PA) in Canada and Mexico have implemented for assessing their management practices. There are four main aspects to evaluate:
What are the similarities and differences in management needs and practices between a developed and a developing country?
What are the existing processes to evaluate management effectiveness?
What are the challenges managers have to face for assessing management effectiveness?
What tools can help enhance management effectiveness and reduce conflicts due to competing objectives? In this regard, the main focus will be on Cumulative Effects Assessment and Performance Indicators as management tools.
Protected Areas (PAs) fulfill the global social objective of protecting native ecosystems and conserving biological diversity . Most PA face various pressures that prevent them from achieving their goals and this creates a discrepancy between what is intended when a new PA is created and what is achieved after it is established. Most countries have designated resources for establishing PAs  but resources are increasingly scarce and have to be allocated among several programs. Therefore, there is increasing pressure from governmental and non-governmental organizations to show that conservation actions are justified based on socially desired goals and achievement of results. For instance, the rate of ecological degradation observed after a protected area is established may equal or even exceed the degradation rate observed before it was established . In addition, it may be the case that actions to manage protected areas and to control environmental impacts from human activity are undertaken without evaluation of their effectiveness , which results in efficient and ineffective use of available resources, lack of accountability, and reduced ability to provide feedback for adaptive management. Therefore, there is a growing recognition that measuring management effectiveness is needed to achieve different purposes, among them the following:
Control degradation of ecosystems inside protected areas,
Ensure a better use of financial and human resources,
Meet human needs without negatively affecting ecological life-support systems, and
Share information among organizations interested in protected areas.
In the last decade, two approaches have been adopted to increase management effectiveness. On one hand, corporations have adopted Environmental Management to anticipate and avoid or solve environmental and resource conservation problems . Corporations are minimizing their environmental impacts and improving management effectiveness by implementing Environmental Management Systems, adopting best practices, and using different management tools. Tools like Cumulative Effects Assessment and Performance Indicators help public and private organizations to identify and control the environmental, social, cultural, and economic impacts of human activity. Those tools also help to track progress toward achieving social, ecological and economic goals, and to balance environmental protection and sustainable development. However, EMS focus on for-profit organizations reduces its applicability for protected areas. On the other hand, agencies managing natural resources have adopted Ecosystem-based Management (EBM) to integrate management of natural and managed landscapes, ecological processes, physical and biological components, and human activities, while maintaining the integrity of ecosystems .
While corporations are identifying best practices to improve management and have an international standard (ISO 14001)  that guide EMS implementation, protected areas still lack a standard or process to implement ecosystem-based management and are beginning to develop tools to evaluate management effectiveness. One of the challenges is to identify best practices for protected areas. This is difficult because of the different social, economic, and environmental context between developing and developed countries  and even among areas within a given country.
Therefore, this research addresses the need for a management system that responds to the requirement of protected areas from a bottom-up approach. In addition, it questions whether the mechanisms to enhance management effectiveness for protected areas, and the barriers and driving forces to improve management, differ between developed and developing countries taking protected areas from Canada and Mexico as case studies.
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This study has four objectives:
To identify current management practices, barriers, driving forces, and areas of improvement for management of protected areas in Canada and Mexico.
To identify performance indicators currently used to evaluate management effectiveness for protected areas and to propose a set of performance indicators to evaluate management effectiveness for protected areas.
To evaluate how the results of Environmental Impact Assessment and/or Cumulative Effects Assessment are incorporated into management of protected areas to identify mechanisms that can enhance its usefulness as a management tool.
To analyze the strengths and weaknesses of EMS and EBM in order to propose an Environmental Management System Model for protected areas that can help managers and stakeholders prioritize needs, optimize resources, and improve communication.
Literature review on legislation and management of protected areas, environmental management systems, ecosystem-based management, performance indicators, and cumulative effects assessment.
Comparison of International Standards for Management Systems (e.g. ISO14001) and existing processes to implement EBM to develop a hybrid management system for protected areas that considers issues and management needs, and which is based on the strengths of both approaches.
Case studies  of protected areas from Canada and Mexico, including document reviews of management plans and other relevant documents of case studies. The main criteria for selecting the case studies are relevance for conservation of biodiversity at national and/or international level, existence of a working management plan, and willingness of managers to participate in the study.
Tentative Case Studies
Document review of reports of environmental impact assessment and cumulative effects assessment carried on for protected areas (focus on the case studies).
Semi-structured and un-structured interviews  with protected areas managers to identify issues, assess management needs and to identify existing and potential indicators to evaluate management effectiveness. Interview results will be analyzed using the program Atlas.it for qualitative data analysis .
Use of the Pressure-State-Response model for developing sustainability indicators  to develop a set of performance indicators.
Survey among protected areas managers and stakeholders 1) to validate the model and the set of indicators, and 2) to evaluate how recommendations of environmental assessment have been incorporated into PA management and the main factors (barriers and driving forces) that have influenced implementation of recommendations. Results of the survey will be analyzed by multivariate analysis , using the program SPSS .
The results will be disseminated by providing managers and stakeholders with summaries of the results in meetings, forums, workshops, or in written format, as requested. Articles describing the results will be published on peer-reviewed journals. Finally, the results will be presented in conferences related to management of natural resources and protected areas.
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