USF St. Petersburg campus Master's Theses (Graduate)


Jessica Gruber

First Advisor

Co-Major Professor: Barnali Dixon, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Co-Major Professor: Richard Mbatu, Ph.D.

Third Advisor

Rebecca Johns-Krishnaswami, Ph.D.


University of South Florida St. Petersburg

Document Type


Publication Date


Date Issued

March 22, 2016


Many conservation efforts around the world have been unsuccessful in attempting to rectify the loss of biodiversity, habitat and overall destruction of the natural environment. Criteria for conservation success have primarily been measured in terms of biological factors such as the amount of biodiversity, wildlife or area conserved. Conservation efforts that include local participation have been correlated with higher degrees of conservation success, which are not shown through traditional conservation measurements. Therefore, there is a need to develop a rubric with a ranking and classification system that will incorporate a holistic approach including interdisciplinary environmental, institutional, socio-economic, conflict and traditional biological factors in determining success and/or failure. This study aims to expand traditional criteria used to measure the success or failure of conservation attempts by identifying additional factors that significantly influence conservation outcomes, and incorporating them into a revised rubric for redefining conservation success. In addition, the study compares and contrasts factors that lead to the success and/or failure of land conservation efforts on a local, regional and global scale. Current literature recognizes the need for the incorporation of factors including environmental, political/institutional , social/cultural/economic and conflict-related in the holistic rubric. The application of the holistic rubric comprises a nested analytical tool utilizing techniques from percentage analysis, multiple criteria analysis, additional and multiplicative functions and rule based systems. The proposed holistic rubric was applied to twenty nine case studies that were identified as successful using the traditional rubric in an effort to redefine conservation success and determine factors that are significant locally, regionally and globally. The holistic framework (that combined traditional factors with additional factors) redefined success and failure for the parks studied here. The majority of conservation efforts received a lower degree of success although traditional measurements ranked them as successful (82% received lower scores and 17% remained the same or higher). Comparing the results of the nested analysis, local, regional and global factors became apparent. Local factors were considered to be highly variable, while regional factors were less variable, but still dependent on local conditions . Local factors in Costa Rica were very similar between the two parks with 16 of the 18 applicable factors in common while Panama's local factors had similar patterns of local factors varying only in the conflict category. Mekong Valley's three parks had 14 similar local factors out of 16 (Lower Mekong Dry Forest and Greater Annamites) and 17 (Phong Nha-Ke Bang) applicable factors. Local factors in Cameroon showed a more variable pattern with 12 of the 16 applicable factors being analogous. Senegal, having only one park, displayed no patterns for local factors. In Tanzania, 14 of the 15 (Coastal East Africa) and 17 (Kilimanjaro and Serengeti) applicable factors were considered common. Local factors in Zimbabwe were highly variable as Mana Pools had the least amount of applicable variables. The United States, with the greatest number of parks, showed the most variability in local factors. The amount of applicable factors ranges from 12 to 18, with only 6 of the factors demonstrating similarities. Local and regional differences aid in highlighting changes in culture, government, habitat and social habitats between all the case study locations that were not apparent in traditional measurements. Globally significant factors were narrowed down to two factors, water quality and logging, highlighting influences that are habitually ignored in traditional measurements of conservation success. To truly define conservation success, holistic factors need to be included in the rubric, however, in spite of acknowledgement of additional factors they have not been incorporated in the traditional measurement of success because there is a lack of evaluative framework to allow for easy adaptation of complex variables. The rubric developed and used in this research is an integrative and adaptive approach which offers a tool/methodology that is transferable to different geographical areas where it can be customized to be applied to various conservation efforts. This rubric also allows for local knowledge to be incorporated easily and helps to delineate important factors for conservation success in local areas.


A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Science Department of Environmental Science, Policy and Geography College of Arts and Science University of South Florida Saint Petersburg

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