Ecologist N V C Polunin argues that protected areas are an extreme form of conservation, and that other forms of regulated area management may be more appropriate for the management needs of local development. In fact, future conservation could be based predominantly on those categories of proteced areas which accept human use. Examples include the international Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN)
tegory viii (multiple-use management area), world heritage,
cultural landscapes and UNESCO biosphere reserves.
@ Sustainable agriculture may represent the most viable
&-use option for many forest areas at present under strict
owtection. Agriculture in its many forms is by far the most
yredominant form of land-use in tropical regions.
;kVicultural management may also benefit conservation.
What is needed is to move away from an obsession with
5eserves as isolated entities and move towards an integration
of human land-use and nature conservation. The struggle to
%taintain biodiversity is going to be won or lost in agricultural
systems. Management of agricultural landscapes will be the litnus test of our ability to conserve species. Most terrestrial
biota will eventually have to coexist with human agriculture.
Ontegrating human exploitation with conservation through
the diversification oftypes and intensity of land-use is a realistic way of minimising extinctions.
A thorough understanding of traditional agriculture is a
pwerequisite for any form of tropical forest conservation. To
conserve biodiversity, any future conservation of tropical for must include two key features: a disturbance regime of
dynamic management associated with human access to and
Wrifisation of the ecosystem; and the strict avoidance of large
C;@es, along with a new emphasis on patch or mosaic man-
PFT ent of small areas.
Growing empirical evidence suggests that moderate frencies or intensities of disturbance foster maximum species
C'ness. A directive of the European Community on the conation ofnatural habitats and ofwild fauna and flora recognisation that "the maintenance of such biodiversity may in certain cases require the maintenance, or indeed the encourage trit, ofhuman activities".
The UNESCO "Man and the Biosphere" programme
Lems to have come very close to a rational concept of the
dynamic management of ecosystems: "One of the most
Wuable features of biosphere reserves (is) that they offer
excellent way of integrated conservation with development
ry building on the knowledge of indigenous people about
e sustainable management of their ecosystems and about
te properties and values of the plants and animals therein.
When this is appropriately supplemented by modern science
Ind technology, such knowledge should enable as to
made evenjPetter use of those ecosystems while preserving
?heir essenlial character - and to do this in ways that
benefit local people and are acceptable to them".
This programme has been less effective because of the past
political opposition to UNESCO's policies by some major donor
countries. They are now actively supporting a far larger but
inferior conservation programme that is funded through the
Global Environmental Facility of the World Bank.
The nurturing and transfer of traditional forest management through agriculture, based on studies of past land management systems, will be a job for development professionals rather than conservationists. A key feature of future tropical forest management will be the acceptance of shifting cultivation, a system generally condemned by conservationists, but
which is a traditional and pan-tropical response to the periodic need to regenerate both forests and fields. As still practised
in the Mayan area of Mexico, traditional systems of shifting
cultivation can feed more than what is assumed, while conserving biological diversity for future use.
There are several alternatives to large, strictly protected
areas. Madhav Gadgil has suggested that reserves in
India should take the form of "a highly dispersed network
of tiny protected areas, 'ranging in size from individual
Ficus trees to groves of a few hundred square meters to a
few hectares in size". This may be more appropriate,for
tropical developing countries than the North American in
of national parks.
There is a need for a replacement of major parts of t
tropica*rotected area system by 'mosaic management" t
allow multiple use and to reflect the multifaceted abilities an
needs of local communities. An emerging tenet of landscape
ecology is that the patchy structure of landscape is import
to ecological functioning at a variety of levels of biological
organisation, and that this itself was worthy of conservation
and management attention.
A mix of ecosystems is required to secure the welfare
tropical peoples, involving a balance between the preservation
of mature forests and the complete conversion to intensive
systems, with an enhanced role for the management of sec
ondary forests. There is need for a wide range of land management options, to develop an integrated mix of national par
national forests, biosphere reserves, extractive reserves, Community forestry and peasant reserves in a variety of differece ecosystems.
I Tfie current and widespread strategy of tropical protecte
area conservation - with the exclusion of human populations
- depends on theories and perceptions on the desi
and management of biological reserves that are now
proving irrelevant and inadequate for the needs
tropical countries. Tropical forest conservation is
based on misconceptions of past and present tropic
land use and of the economic ecology of rural communities. These misconceptions about tropical Ian use in the designation of reserves could translate into
serious errors when it comes to reserve management
Protected area management, which assumes it is ma
aging previously uninhabited land, is management
that will fail.
The disturbance regime associated with the past prO4
ductive use of tropical forest areas is a key to tht
future productive management of biodiversill
Conservationists must accept that nearly all tropical
land is or has been productively used intensively 11
agriculture and extensively to complement agriculturt
by gathering wild plants and by hunting.
Any misguided attempt to reduce, change or pre!
vent disturbance by the establishment of strictly protect
areas will have unpredictable but probably damaging consic
quences for the survival of tropical forests in their prese
form. Strict preservation could destroy biodiversity and aj
the indigenous knowledge needed for ecosystem manag
ment. Management policies excluding rural communitim
from reserves are not only socially provocative, but count
It is suggested that multipurpose management and c t,
ued human use of tropical forests is a more effective conserv
tion policy for tropical developing countries than the stn)
protection of large forest reserves. The present ,
strictly protected areas should be replaced with a system
in harmony with the traditional resource management n
and abilities of rural communities. Rural communities should
be actively involved in the future productive management A
tropical forests, rather than being induced or pressurised into
abandoning their forest heritage.