Transboundary Protected Areas (TBPAs), as the name suggests, are designated protected areas that are adjacent to other protected areas across regional or national borders (Europarc, 2012). Many TBPAs are colloquially known as peace parks and were created with the aim to promote goodwill between nations through nature preservation (Schoon, 2011). While the concept was initiated back in 1924 between Poland and what was then Czechoslovakia, and soon after in 1932 with the establishment of the Glacier-Waterton International Peace Park on the Canadian-US border, it has only recently grown in popularity with a drastic increase in the number of global TBPAs from 59 in 1988 to about 227 in 2007 (Schoon, 2011).
TBPAs are particularly valuable in Europe where many national borders cut across important ecosystems and divide the continent along natural barriers. Areas near borders often have high levels of biodiversity due to their peripheral location or the lack of development for political reasons (Europarc, 2012). Conserving these areas by managing their natural resources sustainably and mitigating environmental impacts is a common responsibility and requires transboundary cooperation. As such, TBPAs act as important tools for achieving ecological coherence in Europe and other areas (Europarc, 2012).
TBPAs are directly related to transboundary EIA in that they represent a commitment between countries towards environmental management which can also help ease tensions (Europarc, 2012). Since transboundary EIA often suffers from difficulties in coordinating efforts, resources, and judgements across borders and may therefore not be conducted adequately, lessons regarding cross-border cooperation could be learned from transboundary conservation. While it is unclear how effective the management of TBPAs has been, there are some examples of well-developed transboundary cooperation (Europarc, 2012). The Europarc Federation aims to facilitate cooperation between European protected areas through a standardized verification and certification system (Europarc, 2012). Using such cases as models may assist the development of transboundary EIA and enable it to become more standardized internationally in certain areas like the European Union. TBPAs also provide direct avenues for the practice and establishment of transboundary EIA through the need to assess the impacts of the protected area itself. This gives the parties involved in the TBPA an opportunity to develop transboundary procedures simultaneously and in doing so, to consolidate relations.
Transboundary conservation supports the landscape ecology approach which looks at the management of a group of habitats at the broader landscape level in an integrative way (Chassot, 2011). Creating and maintaining connectivity across borders in an increasingly fragmented landscape is an important part of many conservation strategies. In addition to the spatial benefits provided by larger contiguous protected areas, transboundary conservation also benefits environmental management by enabling the pooling of resources and knowledge across borders which can help increase the efficiency and productivity of research (McCallum and Schoon, 2011). However, increased connectivity and open borders can also bring new ecological threats such as invasive species, pathogens and parasites, and increased levels of poaching and smuggling (McCallum, 2011).
The consideration of social issues is also an important objective of TBPAs as they can be employed to facilitate social and cultural reconstruction. As long as participatory approaches are considered in the management and decision-making processes involved with the establishment of these areas, local populations can benefit from economic gains, increased community involvement and enhanced communication with non-local park personnel and involved organizations (McCallum et al., 2011). Because TBPAs help break down international boundaries, they may facilitate the restoration of traditional land and resource use by local or indigenous people that have been affected by borders and militarization (Spenceley and Oviedo, 2011). This is particularly important for traditionally mobile indigenous people and those whose populations were fragmented by the establishment of artificial borders.
While the purported benefits of TBPAs are many, it is still uncertain whether they are actually being met as their environmental, social, and economic impacts have not yet been adequately assessed (Reyers, 2005). Reyers (2005) suggests that the substantial costs of establishing TBPAs may outweigh the biodiversity benefits, though other benefits were not considered. Perhaps this question would be best addressed by transboundary EIA.
This video discusses some of the cultural and ecological issues involving aboriginal people engaged in managing the Waterton-Glacier International Peace Park on the Montana-Alberta border (Source: International Peace Park Expeditions).
Chassot, O. 2011. Ecological Issues – transboundary conservation. Global Transboundary Conservation Network. Retrieved Mar. 20, 2012 from http://www.tbpa.net/page.php?ndx=46.
Europarc. 2012. Transboundary Parks. Europarc Federation. Retrieved Mar. 20, 2012 from http://www.europarc.org/what-we-do/transboundary-parks/.
McCallum, J. 2011. Ecological challenges and difficulty of gathering ecological data on Transboundary Conservation Areas (TBCA). Global Transboundary Conservation Network. Retrieved Mar. 20, 2012 from http://www.tbpa.net/page.php?ndx=46.
McCallum, J, Rosen, T and Vasilijević, M. 2011. The socio-cultural case for transboundary conservation. Global Transboundary Conservation Network. Retrieved Mar. 20, 2012 from http://www.tbpa.net/page.php?ndx=54.
McCallum, J and Schoon, M. 2011. Ecological benefits and costs of Transboundary Conservation Areas (TBCA). Global Transboundary Conservation Network. Retrieved Mar. 20, 2012 from http://www.tbpa.net/page.php?ndx=52.
Reyers, B. 2005. Evaluating Transboundary Protected Areas: Achieving Biodiversity Targets. Retrieved Mar. 20, 2012 from http://www.earthlore.ca/clients/WPC/English/grfx/sessions/PDFs/session_2/Reyers.pdf.
Schoon, M. 2011. Brief History of Transboundary Protected Areas. Global Transboundary Conservation Network. Retrieved Mar. 20, 2012 from http://www.tbpa.net/page.php?ndx=17.
Spenceley, A and Oviedo, G. 2011. Human Communities and Transboundary Protected Areas: Bringing Social Issues into Transboundary Conservation. Global Transboundary Conservation Network. Retrieved Mar. 20, 2012 from http://www.tbpa.net/page.php?ndx=47.