Background and Significance

Reconciling environmental conservation and economic development is a key challenge in any transformation to sustainability, as exemplified by the 15th Sustainable Development Goal. Yet research demonstrates that the current conservation estate, encompassing approximately 12- 15% of the Earth’s terrestrial surface, is woefully inadequate to halt the sixth great extinction crisis currently underway. Hence, the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) has called for expansion of conservation areas to include at least 17% of the earth’s surface. Funding for this expansion is severely lacking, however, while critics assert that it would still be far too little to truly redress biodiversity loss. As a result, many conservationists now argue that we need to directly address our global economic development model. They point to two fundamental flaws: how it systematically puts pressure on ecosystems and biodiversity and continues to undervalue conservation vis-à-vis extraction and ecological degradation. CON-VIVA builds on this crucial acknowledgement that conventional economic development strategies are environmentally damaging and that new models grounded in resource conservation are urgently needed.

This has become particularly important in a post-2008 era of sustained economic uncertainty in which public funding for conservation has been dramatically curtailed in many societies and financial support from the private sector increasingly sought to make up the shortfall. Yet efforts to develop such models, grounded in market-based instruments (MBIs) such as ecotourism and payment for environmental services (PES), have proven insufficient in generating the necessary funding to counter more lucrative environmentally harmful enterprise as well as in addressing poverty alleviation alongside conservation. They have also often failed to generate the political support required to make new conservation measures more democratic and effective. It is clear that an alternative model is needed that goes beyond protected areas and faith in markets to incorporate the needs of humans and nonhumans alike within integrated landscapes

Towards Convivial Conservation

Ou proposal for convivial conservation is a response to this need. The concept calls for consideration of new ways to transform mainstream forms of economic development, while at the same time transcending human-nature divides. CON-VIVA operationalizes this bold ambition by generating, studying and integrating global and local data and knowledge on the conservation and reintroduction of apex predators in diverse contexts. Apex predators are keystone species, crucial for maintaining ecosystem health. They have also long inspired fascination, cultural imagination and fear, thus often acting as flagship species for broader conservation efforts. Yet their large range and dietary requirements often put them into conflict with people. The many dimensions of living with apex predators are therefore a key challenge for convivial conservation in practice. By studying these dynamics across cases in four countries on different continents with diverse political, economic, social and ecological conditions, CONVIVA will integrate existing and newly generated data to inspire and enhance broader transformations to sustainability.

All this translates into four main research questions (RQs):

1. How are combined effects of austerity, habitat fragmentation and human-wildlife conflict influencing global conservation debates and policies?

2. How do these dynamics affect the relations between apex predators and people in diverse local contexts?

3. What common patterns and lessons for effective conservation can be learned from
comparison across these different sites?

4. What novel landscape, governance and funding mechanisms can be developed or scaled up to address both global and local challenges in pursuit of convivial conservation?