Protected Area Management and Nature Conservation

Protected area management has a long history in Europe and North America with the first US National Park established in 1872 at Yellowstone followed by the first National Parks in Europe in 1909 (Sweden) and 1914 (Switzerland). Whereas the primary focus has traditionally centred on the preservation of areas of ‘untamed’ and ‘pristine’ wilderness, conservation objectives and values have shifted considerably over time. Increasingly protected areas are viewed within their regional socio-economic and cultural context and objectives are framed in terms sustainable use, development and protection, recognising that cultural and natural heritage are, in practice, interconnected. Indeed, protected areas are increasingly considered to play a critical role in processes of socio-ecological transformation, responding to major socio-environmental trends such as uneven globalisation, individualisation, climate change and biodiversity loss.

Romo coast, Danish Wadden Sea Wadden (c) creative commons, Stefan Klaas, 2016.

With mounting concerns regarding the health and sustainability of our oceans and seas, recent years have witnessed the establishment of marine protected areas across the world. Here, also, it is increasingly recognised that biodiversity goals need to be supplemented with due regard for socio-cultural values and the livelihoods of those who make a living from the sea and the coast. Through my research work at the Wadden Sea coast, I was able to compare diverse practices of protected area management within the context of what is recognised internationally as a good practice case of transboundary cooperation. More specifically, my recent work in this field has focussed on the following topical issues:

– Underlying understandings of nature and landscape and their influence on the management of protected areas;

– The relationship between conservation and sustainable regional development (within and across park boundaries);

– The incorporation of cultural values and perspectives within protected area management;

– The role of spatial planning in the governance of protected areas and the intersections between planning, landscape management and conservation policy.

Current and Recent Activities

Working with REM Consult, I have prepared a guide to European and national funding opportunities to support stakeholders (public authorities, NGOs, SMEs) in their conservation and protected area management work at the Wadden Sea. This study was commissioned by the National Park administration of Lower Saxony, working together with the Common Wadden Sea Secretariat and a trialteral network of partners. It was funded under the PROWAD LINK project (Interreg North Sea Region).

Together with Martin Döring (Hamburg) and Linde Egberts (Amsterdam) I edited a special issue of the journal Maritime Studies (MAST), focussed on exploring relational perspectives on the Wadden Sea landscape. The papers, drawn from across the environmental humanities and social sciences examine how nature-culture dichotomies are transcended at the Wadden Sea and the implications of relational or integrated perspectives for conservation, coastal management and relations between local communities and tourist visitors.

Recent publications on this topic include:

  1. Tubridy, F., Walsh, Lennon, M. & Scott, M. (2022) Contextualising coastal management and adaptation: Examining situated practices and path dependencies in Ireland and Germany, Ocean and Coastal Management, 220, 106095,
  2. Döring, M. Walsh, C. & Ratter, B. (2022) Emplaced climate imaginaries: The regional construction of climate futures on the German Wadden Sea Coast, Geoforum
  3. Döring, M., Walsh, C. & Egberts, L. (2021) Beyond nature and culture: relational perspectives on the Wadden Sea landscape, Maritime Studies (introduction to special issue),
  4. Walsh, C. (2021) Protected area management in a post-natural world: negotiated governance at the Danish Wadden Sea, Maritime Studies
  5. Walsh, C., Kangler, G. Schaffert, M. (eds.) (2021) Landschaftsbilder und Landschaftsverständnisse in Politik und Praxis, Wiesbaden: Springer VS.
  6. Walsh, C. (2021) Zwischen ‘Ruhe’ und ‘Unberührtheit’: Landschaftsbilder am Wattenmeer im internationalen Vergleich in Walsh, C., Kangler, G. Schaffert, M. (eds.) Landschaftsbilder und Landschaftsverständnisse in Politik und Praxis, Wiesbaden: Springer VS.
  7. Walsh, C. (2020) Landscape Imaginaries and the Protection of Dynamic Nature at the Wadden Sea, Rural Landscapes: Society, Environment, History, 7 (1), 1-20,
  8. Walsh, C. (2019) Integration of Expertise or Collaborative Practice? Coastal Management and Climate Adaptation at the Wadden Sea, Ocean and Coastal Management, 167, 78-86
  9. Walsh, C. (2018) Metageographies of Coastal Management: Negotiating Spaces of Nature and Culture at the Wadden Sea, Area, 50, (2), 177-185,

A recently supervised a Bachelor thesis (Michaela Loch, University of Hamburg, Institute for Geography, 2020) examined the extent to which the seal management work of the Schleswig-Holstein Wadden Sea National Park diverged from the park philosophy of ‘letting nature be nature’.

More information on my research at the Wadden Sea may be found here

Please note that a number of published articles may be behind paywalls. Please contact me for a pre-print version.

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