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Ecol Appl. 2015 Jan;25(1):11-23.

Cross-scale feedbacks and scale mismatches as influences on cultural services and the resilience of protected areas.


Protected areas are a central strategy for achieving global conservation goals, but their continued existence depends heavily on maintaining sufficient social and political support to outweigh economic interests or other motives for land conversion. Thus, the resilience of protected areas can be considered a function of their perceived benefits to society. Nature-based tourism (NBT), a cultural ecosystem service, provides a key source of income to protected areas, facilitating a sustainable solution to conservation. The ability of tourism to generate income depends, however, on both the scales at which this cultural service is provided and the scales at which tourists respond to services on offer. This observation raises a set of location-, context-, and scale-related questions that need to be confronted before we can understand and value cultural service provision appropriately. We combine elements of resilience analysis with a systems ecology framework and apply this to NBT in protected areas to investigate cross-scale interactions and scale mismatches. We postulate that cross-scale effects can either have a positive effect on protected area resilience or lead to scale mismatches, depending on their interactions with cross-scale feedbacks. To demonstrate this, we compare spatial scales and nested levels of institutions to develop a typology of scale mismatches for common scenarios in NBT. In our new typology, the severity of a scale mismatch is expressed as the ratio of spatial scale to institutional level, producing 25 possible outcomes with differing consequences for system resilience. We predict that greater differences between interacting scales and levels, and greater magnitudes of cross-scale interactions, will lead to greater magnitudes of scale mismatch. Achieving a better understanding of feedbacks and mismatches, and finding ways of aligning spatial and institutional scales, will be critical for strengthening the resilience of protected areas that depend on NBT.

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