Architecture & Built Environment, Environmental Sciences

Falling “fortresses”: Unlocking Governance Entanglements and Shifting Knowledge Paradigms to Counter Climate Change Threats in Biodiversity Conservation

This study proposes alternative paradigms of governance and policy thinking necessary for sustainable biodiversity conservation in the times of climate change.


Aditya Ghosh, Associate Professor, Jindal School of Art and Architecture, Jindal Global University, Sonipat, Haryana, India; University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany; Leuphana University, Lüneburg, Germany

Amrita Sen, Indian Institute of Technology Kharagpur, Kharagpur, India, Azim Premji University, Bengaluru, India.

Kaberi Dutta, South Asia Institute, Department of Anthropology, University of Heidelberg, Heidelberg, Germany.

Priyanka Ghosh, VIT-AP School of Social Sciences and Humanities (VISH), VIT-AP University, Amravati, Vijayawada, India, Andhra Pradesh.


Biodiversity conservation is facing unprecedented challenges at the intersection of rapidly changing climates, widespread ecosystem degradation under the influence of global warming and resultant human tragedies over livelihood, habitation, adaptation and coping needs. These challenges are more acute across biodiversity hotspots in the Global South. 

This study disentangles the complex interplay to propose alternative paradigms of governance and policy thinking necessary for sustainable biodiversity conservation. Climate change impacts are exposing critical deficiencies of ‘scientific forest management’ pursued for over a century. For example, recurrent disasters and ecological shifts are increasingly obfuscating cognitive and physical boundaries between the reserve forest and human habitations; putting additional stress on livelihoods which in turn escalate pressures on the forest commons and fuel further conflicts between conservation governance and local communities. 

Instead of assisting in adaptation, the existing conservation governance mechanisms are producing further conflicts between humans and non-humans; livelihoods and conservation; disaster management and development. Conducted in the Sundarbans Biosphere Reserve –world’s largest mangrove forest ecosystem and a climate change hotspot located along the Bay of Bengal across India and Bangladesh –the study finds an urgent need of rethinking and recalibrating biodiversity conservation in the times of climate change. 

However, institutional and market-based approaches such as promoting ecotourism or mangrove plantations may have little impact in this regard, the study finds. Instead, integrating cultural ecosystem services and co-producing knowledge will be critical to tackle the entanglements of climate change and its impacts on local lives, livelihoods and biodiversity conservation.

Published in: Environmental Management

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