The capacity to adapt, conserve and thrive?: marine protected area communities and social-ecological change in coastal Thailand




Bennett, Nathan

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Three complicated and interrelated issues are marine conservation, local development, and climate change. To seek insight into the challenges posed by these issues in a particular context, this dissertation focuses on seven communities near marine protected areas (MPAs) on the Andaman Coast of Thailand. The central question was “How can conservation outcomes and community livelihoods and adaptive capacity be enhanced in communities near MPAs on the Andaman Coast of Thailand in consideration of a changing climate?” The objectives were to explore local perceptions of social and environmental change and vulnerability, community opinions of Thailand’s National Marine Parks (NMPs), and the adaptive capacity of coastal communities. Literatures on resilience, adaptive capacity, vulnerability, conservation impacts, sustainable livelihoods, and governance and management frame the research. Fieldwork included Photovoice, interviews, and household surveys. Four stand-alone manuscripts are included in the dissertation: a) “A picture of change: Using Photovoice to explore social and environmental change in coastal communities on the Andaman Coast of Thailand”; b) “Vulnerability to multiple stressors in coastal communities: A study of the Andaman Coast of Thailand”; c) “Why local people do not support conservation: Community perceptions of marine protected area livelihood impacts, governance and management in Thailand”; and, d) “The capacity to adapt?: Communities in a changing climate, environment and economy on the northern Andaman Coast of Thailand”. Broadly, the dissertation offers relevant insights into the complex social-ecological changes being experienced by heterogeneous communities and the multi-faceted and multi-scalar actions required to address increasing challenges. Specifically, it a) demonstrates that Photovoice is an effective method for examining social and environmental change and providing input into community adaptation, conservation, and development processes, b) explores the social-economic and biophysical stressors that contribute to household vulnerability and suggests that multiple stressors, particularly economics and climate change, need to be considered in adaptation planning, c) recommends significant improvements to current NMP governance and management to engender local support for marine conservation, and d) illustrates that communities on the Andaman coast of Thailand are coping with environmental and fisheries declines, reacting to climate change and adapting variably to alternative livelihoods and proposes interventions for improving adaptive capacity.



adaptive capacity, vulnerability, marine protected areas, conservation impacts, multiple stressors, resilience, governance, management, Photovoice, Thailand, climate change, sustainable livelihoods, adaptation, conservation, natural resource management