Linking the goals of development and conservation in joint interventions has gained popularity in recent decades. The central idea is that the two goals are mutually beneficial, or even that one is a necessary condition for the success of the other. However, evidence on the effectiveness of such initiatives has so far been scarce.
First, to assess the characteristics of conservation projects that lead to positive outcomes on four measured dimensions: ecological, economic, behavioural, and attitudinal. Second, to survey monitoring and evaluation efforts in the area.
The authors included primary literature, relating to any conservation and development project associated with a protected area that measured outcomes in at least two of the four success dimensions identified. Study-design requirements were not specified.
The authors searched sources containing peer-reviewed studies, including databases such as ISI Web of Knowledge, Anthropology Plus and JSTOR. They included studies published since 1988 and in English. The review of studies was carried out by two independent researchers, and results were synthesised by applying two-dimensional contingency tables using Monte Carlo/False Discovery Rates methodology to determine significance and Categorical Principle Components Analysis yielding (visual) relationships between variables.
The authors include 24 studies of integrated conservation and development projects associated with a protected area. The studies were from 14 countries in East Asia and Pacific, and Sub-Saharan Africa as well as Latin America and the Caribbean. The review used a range of different study designs.
The authors find that there is a lack of studies providing satisfactory quantitative measures of the effect of integrated conservation and development projects. They observe that even the studies included in the review suffer from methodological weaknesses.
The authors find that the associations in their results support predictions about the potential of conservation strategies involving utilisation, decentralisation and market access. Drawing on these results, the authors suggest that ' at least under some conditions ' integrated conservation and development projects can be beneficial.
In an analysis of the data from included studies using two statistical approaches, the results indicate that when initiatives involve market-access and economic-integration efforts, community perception of and attitude towards the programme appear to be more positive. They also show that greater community involvement in design and implementation is correlated with more conscious behaviour by community members in terms of the resource.
The authors call for more rigorous evaluation of integrated conservation and development projects in the future and criticise the present 'paucity' of high-quality data.
The systematic review has relatively clear inclusion criteria, and theauthors acknowledge the limitations of the available evidence.However, the review itself has major limitations. The most importantis that it does not provide a systematic assessment of the quality ofthe included studies. This is of particular concern because the reviewincludes a very broad range of study designs, and included studies maycontain evidence that is not appropriate to sustain causal claims.Additionally, the search is not sufficiently comprehensive andincludes only English-language studies.
While published as a systematic review, the study was not designed assuch a-priori and this accounts for many of these weaknesses.Moreover, the authors refrain from making any strong policyrecommendations and stress the weaknesses of the existing evidencebase in this field.