Sandra Nicolle

PhD defended on September 24th 2014.

Protected natural spaces in the Amazonian forest. From management doctrines to their implementation: which efficiency for environmental protection? Comparative study between France (Guyane) and Brazil (Amapá).

Nowadays, natural protected areas are one of the main public policies implemented at the international level in
order to prevent the destruction of ecosystems. During the last decades, they became very numerous, and
mobilized more and more diversified modes of action. However, natural ecosystems continue to deteriorate, and
the effectiveness of protected areas is often questioned.
The aim of this thesis was to analyse the factors influencing the effectiveness of protected areas in a context of
Amazonian ecosystems that are still well preserved. We observed the implementation of environmental
management arrangement (protected areas) that are based on various doctrines: (i) the strong limitation of all
harmful human activities through legislation; (ii) the management of resources by local or traditional
populations; and (iii) the implementation of sustainable forest management on public lands. We adopted a
comparative approach between Guyana (France) and Amapá (Brazil), territories that share a common border,
mainly identifiable by the Oyapock River. These two territories present quite similar ecological and geographical
conditions, and both have an exceptional coverage of protected areas. Therefore this international comparison
allowed us to observe the influence of the historical and socio-political context on the implementation of
protected areas.

We used a constructivist approach, mainly based on qualitative data (semi-structured interviews, document
analysis, participant observation...). We effected a critical deconstruction of “protected areas” management
arrangements in order to make their environmental objectives intelligible, and we analysed the environmental
effectiveness of the strategies implemented. This analysis was based on a diachronic and multiscalar lecture of
management processes.

We show that the establishment of protected areas in Guiana and Amapá was led by coalitions of actors
structured around management doctrines, i.e. shared conceptions of “good environmental management”.
Management arrangements created inherited the strategic resources of action and the legitimacy of these
In Amapá, coalitions were strongly articulated with wider social and environmental movements of the Brazilian
Amazon, especially in the case of socio-environmental claims rising at the end of the dictatorship. In French
Guiana, the natural protected areas are mainly the result of compromise between the French willingness to serve
as an example in the Amazon region, and the minimisation of conflicts with local politicians.

In both cases, strictly protected areas have strong legislative frameworks, but little human resources. They
represent a more important area in Amapá than in Guiana, but management strategies implemented are quite
similar. Protected areas established for local people are a result of socio-environmental movements in the years
1980-1990. In Brazil, environmental managerial skills of these people are clearly recognized. In French Guiana,
the managerial autonomy of these populations is little mobilised in protected areas, as the recognition of
Amerindian ethnic specificity contradicts the French Constitution. Sustainable forest management of public areas
is more advanced technically and more prudent in Guiana than in Amapá, thanks to the action of the French state
that benefits from a long forest management history. In Amapá a system of concessions in public forest has just
been set up.

The management strategies implemented in protected areas heavily depend on the doctrine mobilized by
managers, and on the resources inherited (laws, human and financial resources, partnerships, data...) from the
construction phase of the management arrangements. However, they evolve over time in response to changes in
the environment, or adapt to the entry of new actors in the coalition. Finally, the environmental performance of
protected areas is the result of (i) the structure of the management arrangement and the doctrine it is based on;
(ii) the resources (technical, alliances...) available (and mobilized); (iii) the management strategies implemented;
and (iv) the intensity of the pressures on the ecosystems.
However, we show that some broad strategies are specific to each national context. In Brazil, environmental
NGOs play an important role by maintaining a pressure on the State and thereby supporting the activities of
environmental institutions. In French Guiana, the main actors in charge of environmental issues are public
institutions. It provides more resources to the protected areas, but very limited possibilities for intersectoral
negotiations. In both cases, there is a gradual shift from environmental claims towards a greater integration of
both environmental and socioeconomic stakes.

Finally, the joint implementation of the various protected areas in the territories is not conducive to a total freeze
of resources and territories, but enables the emergence of alternative land management proposals that go against
destructive models of development prevailing today.


Françoise Grenand, CNRS.

Maya Leroy, AgroParisTech.

FSE Guyane {PNG}Union Européenne {PNG}

Student funded by the European Union.

Labex Ceba {PNG}

View online : Download the Thesis

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