Bragagnolo, C., Pereira, M., Ng, K. & Calado, H. (2016) Understanding and mapping local conflicts related to protected areas in small islands: a case study of the Azores archipelago.Island Studies Journal, 11(1), 57-90. DOI: (IF2016 0,897; Q3 Social Sciences, Interdisciplinary)
Establishing Protected Areas (PAs) is considered one of the most appropriate ways to conserve nature and cultural landscapes. However, conservation constraints can generate social conflicts, especially at a local level. In small islands (SIs), local conflicts may escalate due to an increase in competition for limited space and resources. Pico island in the Azores Archipelago (Portugal), part of the Outermost European region, was considered a good case to study conservation-development conflicts due to the amount of designated protected land (> 35% of its surface) and the approval of a new Azorean PA network in 2007. This paper presents a new approach to understanding and mapping local conflicts within PAs in SIs by integrating qualitative data and spatially explicit information. This research takes stock of the benefits, needs and constraints related to Pico Natural Park as perceived by local stakeholders through face-to-face semi-structured interviews; it subsequently identifies and transposes the conflicts distilled from stakeholder discourse into spatially representative visual maps via GIS. Research outcomes show that PAs are perceived mainly as constraints to local development, showing inconsistency between local expectations and regional conservation policy. This highlights the importance of including public participation processes prior to any implementation of conservation strategies. The proposed method provides a springboard towards effective conflict management for PAs on Pico island, showing a relatively low-cost and straightforward approach to minimising future local conflicts which could be adapted to other similar Outermost European regions and SIs.