Biosphere reserves on the borders: geopolitics of two case-studies in the NW Iberian Peninsula

Authors: Valerià Paül*, Universidade De Santiago De Compostela , Juan-Manuel Trillo-Santamaría, Universidade de Santiado de Compostela, Pauli Natasha, The University of Western Australia
Topics: Political Geography
Keywords: geopolitics, borders, governance, protected areas, biosphere reserves
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/13/2018
Start / End Time: 5:20 PM / 7:00 PM
Room: Bacchus, Sheraton, 8th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


UNESCO Biosphere reserves are intended to promote co-operative, shared management of protected areas and surrounding lands to achieve conservation and sustainable natural resource use. Twenty of the 669 biosphere reserves are transboundary, a designation intended to signify political will for nations to work together towards common management goals; however, sparse research exists on the extent to which effective co-operation occurs. This paper presents recent research on the governance of two transboundary biosphere reserves shared between Spain and Portugal. To understand the extent of co-operation towards realizing shared ecosystem management goals, a qualitative research design was used, based on interviews with more than 50 stakeholders from the border regions. Our research suggests that co-operation is weaker than expected. The respective nation-states maintain control in terms of planning and investments that impede, rather than enable, effective cooperation towards a single management framework. It would appear that the main incentive for designating these reserves has been to attract EU funding, with the major impetus for designation from the Spanish side. In addition, there are different conceptions of what is meant by protection on both sides of the border between Spain and Portugal. Through discourse and narrative analysis, this research contributes to border formation(s) analysis by critically demonstrating how nation-states’ interests in environmental protection are connected to geopolitics.

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