Indigenous and local community motivations, rationale and regimes for biodiversity conservation

Research summary

Improving our understanding of human-environment relations, and particularly of human motivations, rationale and management regimes, is paramount to the success of any biodiversity conservation initiative involving local communities. By comparing approaches, challenges and successes across case study sites, this research aims to identify those contextual settings, socio-cultural traits, incentives, and practical tools that best foster optimum long-term integration of biodiversity conservation and local wellbeing.


Researchers debate the role that humans play in managing or caring for the environment, particularly in what drives certain environmentally destructive or sound behaviour, and how such behaviour might be influenced or altered by social, economic, political, historical, or psychological factors. That said, there is a growing sense among scientists and practitioners that social factors are the primary determinants of biodiversity conservation success or failure. Despite this, we lack empirical research on what drives people to act in environmentally or non-environmentally-friendly ways. This multi-year study incorporates case studies from Bangladesh, Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Madagascar, and Namibia, to learn from a number of community-based conservation cases about what drives biodiversity conservation, and based on what values and motivations. The findings will be used to help inform and design more effective conservation strategies and forms of environmental education, planning and policy tools whist simultaneously enhancing local community agency and wellbeing. The research process is designed to build strong collaborations across disciplines and sectors, and guide communication to the existing values of individuals and societies. The research can benefit society by allowing for a re-thinking and questioning of what presumptions societies have regarding their role in maintaining a healthy environment and thereby also a healthy society. Both the process and outcomes of this research are likely to contribute to a re-formulation in the perceptions, motivations, and incentives held and used by different actors vis-a-vis the environment. Rather than reinforcing a top-down structure on environmentalism, the research aims to build agency of actors themselves. Ultimately, the outcomes can help shape the way individuals and societies behave in relation to the environment, whilst improving individual and societal wellbeing, and providing us with new insights urgently needed in today's fora of socio-environmental science and policy.

More information

Research publication

Research info

Research title
Indigenous and local community motivations, rationale and regimes for biodiversity conservation

Research timeline
1.8.2015 - 1.12.2019

biodiversity conservation community-based conservation conservation psychology Indigenous peoples

Asia Caribbean Latin America Africa


University of Helsinki
Faculty of Social Sciences, Development Studies
Helsinki, Finland

Funding instrument

Project budget
1-2 million euros

Head of research
Aili Pyhälä

Research team
Anita Heim; Attila Paksi; Aina Brias; Marketta Vuola; Mohammad Mozumder

ICCA Consortium; ECOLISE; Instituto de Investigación de la Amazonia Peruana; Organisacion Gonawindua Tayrona

Contact information
Aili Pyhälä
+358 50 311 6998
Open link

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