CfP POLLEN20 – Lost in transition? Capturing the impacts of conservation and development interventions on relational values and human well-being in the forested tropics

Third Biennial Conference of the Political Ecology Network (POLLEN20)
Brighton, United Kingdom
24-26 June 2020

Session organizers

Rachel Carmenta (University of Cambridge), Julie G. Zaehringer (University of Bern, CH) & Judith Schleicher (University of Cambridge). Please submit your abstract (Max 250 words) to Rachel Carmenta (, Julie G. Zaehringer ( and Judith Schleicher ( by midnight (GMT) on Thursday 21st November.

Session description

Around the world tropical landscapes are in transition. Perhaps nowhere more so than in the forest frontiers of the global south. From Indonesian peat swamp forests to the arc of deforestation in Northern Brazil, landscape change is rapid, drastic and driven by distant claims on land connecting disparate geographies (Liu et al, 2013). The rate of change has catalysed a number of interventions for mitigating further forest loss, reversing past legacies and for reforesting lands at large scales. These conservation and development interventions follow particular strategies (e.g. agricultural intensification, renewable energy projects, and forest conservation and restoration) which influence, modify and in some cases recast access, use and the rights of rural communities to the land and to resources. Although recent and increasing pressure has been placed on conservation and development interventions to assess and monitor their impact, the metrics of such appraisals are often externally derived and follow standardized criteria (e.g. Oldekop et al, 2016). Notably, particular dimensions of place-based realities often remain invisible in conventional evaluation approaches, creating the space for environmental injustices to go unrecognized. These include the non-material flows from nature to people, such as the place-based attachments (including the emotive bonds to place, the identities derived from place and the dependence on place) and relational values that may be prioritized locally, yet remain largely unmeasured (Chan et al, 2016). The relationship between place and the multi-dimensionality of locally defined human well-being is often overlooked in favour of standardised approaches (McKinnon et al, 2016). These approaches emphasize objective instead of subjective and relational measures, particularly within the conservation and development sectors. This lack of recognition explains how little is known about the ways in which environment and development interventions and landscape change impacts the relationship between people and place (Rasmussen et al, 2018). The invisibility of place-based values, precludes the contribution of people to co-designing their futures partly because ‘what gets measured gets pursued’ (Jacobs et al, 2018). It also ignores the distributional impacts of the lived reality of landscape change- including those induced through interventions- in a telecoupled world (Ellis et al, 2019; Boillat et al, 2018). Plural valuation processes can inform more equitable intervention strategies and give recognition to the values that matter for place-based alternatives to mainstream development (Zafra-Calvo et al, in review). Further, plural valuation can give voice to those often most marginalized when relational values are omitted. This session will draw together contemporary research that addresses this emerging area in the conservation and land sciences, and illustrate the diverse impacts of landscape changes and intervention strategies at the forest agricultural nexus. Such insights are necessary for dialogue, transparency and to move towards a more equitable and just Anthropocene. In this session, we will present a number of unique approaches to evaluations and quantification of relational values and human wellbeing and present leading contemporary academic, policy, and practitioner approaches that offer ways forward towards equitable and sustainable futures. The contributions are concerned with the contested frontier landscapes of the forested tropics in the global south.


Boillat, S., Gerber, J. D., Oberlack, C., Zaehringer, J. G, Ifejika Speranza, C., & Rist, S. (2018). Distant interactions, power, and environmental justice in protected area governance: A telecoupling perspective. Sustainability10(11), 3954.

Chan, K. M., Balvanera, P., Benessaiah, K., Chapman, M., Díaz, S., Gómez-Baggethun, E., … & Luck, G. W. (2016). Opinion: Why protect nature? Rethinking values and the environment. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences113(6), 1462-1465.

Ellis, E. C., Pascual, U., & Mertz, O. (2019). Ecosystem services and nature’s contribution to people: negotiating diverse values and trade-offs in land systems. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability38, 86-94.

Jacobs, S., Martín-López, B., Barton, D. N., Dunford, R., Harrison, P. A., Kelemen, E., … & Kopperoinen, L. (2018). The means determine the end–Pursuing integrated valuation in practice. Ecosystem services29, 515-528.

Liu, J., Hull, V., Batistella, M., DeFries, R., Dietz, T., Fu, F., … & Martinelli, L. A. (2013). Framing sustainability in a telecoupled world. Ecology and Society18(2).

McKinnon, M. C., Cheng, S. H., Dupre, S., Edmond, J., Garside, R., Glew, L., … & Oliveira, I. (2016). What are the effects of nature conservation on human well-being? A systematic map of empirical evidence from developing countries. Environmental Evidence5(1), 8.

Oldekop, J. A., Holmes, G., Harris, W. E., & Evans, K. L. (2016). A global assessment of the social and conservation outcomes of protected areas. Conservation Biology30(1), 133-141.

Rasmussen, L. V., Coolsaet, B., Martin, A., Mertz, O., Pascual, U., Corbera, E., … & Ryan, C. M. (2018). Social-ecological outcomes of agricultural intensification. Nature Sustainability1(6), 275-282.

Zafra-Calvo, N; Balvanera, P; Pascual, U; Merçon, J; Martin-Lopez, B; van Noordwijk, M; Mwampamba, T; Lele, S; Ifejika Speranza, C; Arias-Arevalo, P; Diego, C; Caceres, D; O`Farrell, P; Subramanian, Suneetha M; Soubadra, Di; Krishnan, S; Carmenta, R; Guibrunet, L; Elsin, Y K; Moersberger, H; Cariño, J; Diaz, S. Plural valuation of nature for equity and sustainability: Insights from the Global South. In review. Global Environmental Change.

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