Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin

GoBi - Governance of Biodiversity

General Outline GoBi


Losses in biodiversity are becoming alarming. To safeguard what is left means placing priority on the protection of species and habitats. Ideally, this should be a goal in its own right. In practice, people need to see a direct gain. An innovative approach to biodiversity management are Biosphere Reserves which comprise a strategy to reconcile conservation with the sustainable use of natural resources.

Biosphere reserves – currently about 440 sites in 97 countries (July 2003) – are areas of terrestrial and coastal/marine ecosystems that are internationally recognised under UNESCO`s Man and Biosphere (MAB) Programme. Biosphere reserves aim to be experimental places and vanguards for sustainable development, as MAB has declared it in the Seville Strategy (1995) and reinforced in the Seville +5 declaration (2000). This ambitious claim is difficult to realise as many biosphere reserves neither have the capacity nor the resources to meet this global mandate. The implementation of the strategy thus still leaves room for improvement.

The conservation success of biosphere reserves and other protected areas is dependent on the appropriateness of their management systems and broader governance issues such as their political and legal system, resource-use patterns as well as the degree of involvement of communities living within or nearby them. The interdisciplinary research group GoBi will develop and test an integrated set of indicators to find out and measure which particular factors impact in what way on the management success or failure of biosphere reserves.

Figure1: The project cycle of the GoBi research methods

To address the current lack of studies on the effectiveness of biosphere reserve management and governance approaches in achieving the combined conservation and development objectives our research group integrates different ecological and socio-economic theoretical concepts and empirical methods in an adaptive manner. The theoretical framework encompasses conservation biology, social psychology and rural and development sociology including research on common property governance.

The integrated set of methods consists (see figure 1) of a combination of quantitative and qualitative methodological approaches including a comprehensive literature review, a statistical meta-analysis and a survey (all with a global focus). A couple of detailed case studies in biosphere reserves in tropical and subtropical countries will be conducted as well as in-depth interviews with experts from all over the world. Ecological aspects such as the determination of the conservation success of different biodiversity management and governance approaches in biosphere reserves will be included into the socio-economic work through database analyses and supporting fieldwork.

The results of our empirical research will be integrated in the light of our theoretical findings, leading to a comprehensive analytical instrument identifying success and failure factors of an effective biodiversity and biosphere reserve management.