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Head shot of Nikoleta Jones

GSI awarded €1.5m to study protected areas

Dr Nikoleta Jones, from our University’s Global Sustainability Institute (GSI), has been awarded a European Research Council (ERC) grant of €1.5million to investigate the social impacts of areas being granted protected status.

Management of protected areas can sometimes lead to conflict, particularly if new rules and regulations are imposed on the local community.

The project is called FIDELIO (Forecasting social Impacts of bioDiversity consErvation poLicies In EurOpe), and Nikoleta will lead a team of 10 researchers over a five-year period. It’s hoped FIDELIO will assist in increasing public engagement and help to incorporate more local opinions in the decision-making processes around protected areas.

Nikoleta explains,

"A protected area is the most important policy tool we have in relation to biodiversity conservation, particularly to protect threatened plants and animals.

"From a social perspective, the designation of a protected area often means that certain changes take place within its boundaries as soon as it is established, sometimes leading to opposition or even protests from the local community. "A typical example is how a protected area can change which land is farmed or how a piece of land is farmed, and this can lead to a loss of income for farmers. But protected areas can also have huge benefits to local communities, such as through increased tourism or through improved quality of life due to a better natural environment.

"My project deals with an issue that is of high priority both across Europe and internationally. It is important to have an in-depth understanding of the socio-ecological factors at work, both to improve the public acceptability of protected areas, through studying impacts, and help meet important biodiversity conservation targets."

The research will initially begin by studying four protected areas in Estonia, Norway, Greece and Romania, with an additional 15 protected areas from across Europe being added in the second year of the project. The €1.5million funding is in the form of an ERC Starting Grant.