Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Geography & Environmental Studies


Faculty of Arts

First Advisor

D. Scott Slocombe

Advisor Role

Dissertation Supervisor


Island conservation theory and practice with regard to conservation of tropical terrestrial biodiversity in protected areas systems has yet to be adequately addressed in conservation literature. This knowledge gap is identified as a key contributor to the adoption of scientific principles for in situ biodiversity conservation, and “universal” conservation and protected area management paradigms that are unsuitable for island contexts and geographical scale. The underlying assumption is that “universal” concepts of biodiversity conservation, protected areas management, and evaluation of their effectiveness are transferable to the ecological and socio-economic contexts of tropical islands. The expected outcome of this knowledge transfer is that protected areas managers on tropical islands should be able to effectively conserve biodiversity. The risk of evaluation recommendations proposing unrealistic biodiversity conservation outcomes for protected areas management on tropical islands points to the question of how to assess conservation effectiveness in the tropical island geographic scale and context.

Keeping these considerations in mind, a “two-case” case study was designed to provide a new perspective on the concept of effective biodiversity conservation and its evaluation with respect to tropical islands. The first goal was to provide empirical and theoretical knowledge of the critical components of effective terrestrial biodiversity conservation in national protected areas systems and the second goal was to abstract this knowledge into an island-specific framework for effective biodiversity conservation that can be used to assess the conservation outcomes of protected areas management. The conservation effectiveness framework is a representation of the critical components of effective biodiversity conservation and their relationships. Its development was not dependent on understanding every characteristic and causal process behind a national protected areas system. Rather, the focus was on the system components whose presence or absence dramatically affected conservation effectiveness.

Four major categories of criteria (i.e. goals/objectives, biophysical outcomes, management institutions and governance) representing effective biodiversity conservation were identified from biogeographical and ecological theories, conservation paradigms for biodiversity, the management paradigms for protected areas and documented protected area experiences related to in situ biodiversity conservation in tropical oceanic islands. Taking a contextual, holistic view of the social phenomenon, biodiversity conservation in protected areas systems, a theoretical framework for biodiversity conservation effectiveness in the terrestrial protected areas system of a tropical island was constructed from the identified criteria. Specific propositions of the framework are that the achievement of conservation outcomes is dependent on:

  1. Critical relationships between concepts of biodiversity conservation, conservation goals and objectives, the associated management institutions and governance of a protected areas system.
  2. Ecological and socio-economic contexts representative of tropical islands.
  3. Critical linkages between conservation effectiveness at the system and site levels of protected areas management.

The case study, located in Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, was used to a) validate and revise the theoretically-derived framework for achievement of biodiversity conservation in protected areas system on tropical islands and b) explain how the framework’s criteria and indicators can be used to assess conservation effectiveness.

Jamaica presented a smaller fragmented landscape with concentrations of terrestrial biodiversity; a knowledge base inclusive of conservation biology yet underexposed to the science of protected areas management; adoption of “universal” concepts of biodiversity, protected area, conservation networks and management effectiveness; and a complex protected areas management structure due to overlapping jurisdictions. The Dominican Republic presented a much larger fragmented landscape with concentrations of terrestrial biodiversity; a knowledge base under-exposed to both conservation biology and the science of protected areas management; adoption of “universal” concepts of biodiversity, protected area, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) system of protected areas categories and conservation networks; and a centralized protected areas management structure. The study sites in Jamaica included the Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, Portland Bight Protected Area and Mason River Protected Area with sizes ranging from 495.2 km2 to 0.49 km2. The study sites in the Dominican Republic included the Sierra Bahoruco National Park and Laguna Cabral Wildlife Refuge with sizes ranging from 1,126 km2 to 65 km2.

The case study methodology, data collection and analysis of this research were oriented towards a qualitative approach. The methodology included a participatory aspect where the inputs of protected area and conservation experts as well as representatives from protected area communities were sought. The research methods for each of the two islands included a review and content analysis of island literatures, biophysical data and information extraction, a Delphi process, community workshops and interviews. Methodological triangulation was used to isolate the critical components of effective biodiversity conservation in the contexts of the case study locations and to reconstruct a concept of effective biodiversity conservation for tropical islands. Data analysis allowed for causal explanations of conservation outcomes and suggestions for improvement in the management of national protected area systems.

The research findings for both Jamaica and the Dominican Republic indicate that the transferability of “universal” concepts on in situ biodiversity conservation to tropical islands is dependent on the ecological and socio-economic contexts of the islands. The contemporary design of a protected areas system based on ecological representation in conservation networks is not facilitated by the small, highly fragmented landscapes such as that mapped for Jamaica, with restricted distribution ranges for several island species. Traditional conservation values and practices have focused conservation planning on select species and forest ecosystems in both study locations rather than on as wide a range of biodiversity as is practically possible. Conceptual challenges with and a narrow local knowledge base for biodiversity conservation are masked by the assumptions of a “universal” perspective for in situ biodiversity conservation. Consequently, there have been difficulties with application of the IUCN categories in the Dominican Republic and limited identification of conservation outcomes in both study locations. Successful biodiversity conservation is limited to increasing population numbers for the Jamaican Iguana and maintaining the variety of types of forest in both study locations.

The island-sensitive framework that has been developed through this research presents another perspective on biodiversity conservation by:

  1. Highlighting the critical biogeographical and ecological features, for protected areas design and conservation outcomes that would perpetuate tropical island biodiversity
  2. Pointing out the need for more attention to the socio-economic aspects of biodiversity protection and use in the planning and evaluation of biodiversity conservation
  3. Establishing the importance of harmonizing management of a PAS at national level with management of individual protected sites

The final framework for biodiversity conservation effectiveness in the terrestrial protected areas system of a tropical island is island-sensitive with respect to its biogeographical criteria. However, a claim of island-specificity couid not be made for the other criteria which have universal applicability.

Recommendations for in situ biodiversity conservation on tropical islands in general, and in particular to Jamaica and the Dominican Republic, are directed to the academic community, conservation educators, protected area managers and policy makers, and international environment and development agencies. Major points include the development and testing of the evaluation framework by conservation scientists over a wider variety of ecological and socio-economic contexts on tropical islands, building the capacity for educating and training protected areas and conservation scientists and practitioners, implementing a policy of periodically evaluating biodiversity conservation outcomes, coordination of conservation planning, enforcement and financing at both the system and site levels of protected areas management, and encouraging the application of island-sensitive evaluation criteria in internationally funded conservation evaluations.

Convocation Year