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Culture and parks: incorporating cultural ecosystem services into conservation in the Tibetan region of Southwest China

Jun He, National Centre for Borderland Ethnic Studies in Southwest China, Yunnan University; School of Ethnology and Sociology, Yunnan University
Na Guo, National Centre for Borderland Ethnic Studies in Southwest China, Yunnan University; Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences


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In China, along with other countries in the Global South, the number of national parks is rapidly increasing. The primary objectives of this increase are to protect global biodiversity and ecosystem services. These national parks are often established in areas rich in biodiversity and abundant in cultural diversity. Current conservation policies and practices take some considerations of cultural ecosystem services (CES). Despite these efforts, many policies and practices do not meaningfully incorporate local voices in conservation and development endeavors, but rather merely select conservation as an ambiguous goal, or focus on promoting the recreational or touristic value of a local region. Meaningfully incorporating CES into conservation measures thus presents a global challenge. Using empirically grounded case studies in Pudacuo National Park in the Tibetan region of Southwest China as an example, this research documents the processes by which CES were incorporated into both conservation efforts and the construction of this national park. We argue that examining CES should be contextualized via the exploration of cultural practices within specific locales. Incorporating CES can contribute to the success of conservation efforts, and this incorporation can also meet local spiritual and religious needs. The policy implication emerging from this research is that the current policies that guide the development of national parks in China and beyond must recognize local cultural practices and consider local cultural needs to highlight inclusivity when planning conservation projects.

Key words

CES; cultural needs; cultural practice; ecosystem services; nature reserve; protected areas; sacred sites

Copyright © 2021 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087