Many protected areas (PAs) have followed the conventional and exclusionary approach applied at Yellowstone in 1872. As such, many parks have failed to fully integrate other important factors, such as social, cultural, and political issues. In some cases, this has triggered adverse social impacts on local communities, disrupting their traditional ways of living and limiting their control of and access to natural resources. Such an outcome can undermine protection policies through conflicts between park managers and local communities. The success of conservation strategies through protected areas may lie in the ability of managers to reconcile biodiversity conservation goals with social and economic issues and to promote greater compliance of local communities with PA conservation strategies. However, there are very few quantitative studies identifying what the key factors are that lead to better compliance with PA conservation policies. To address this issue, we conducted a meta-analysis of 55 published case studies from developing countries to determine whether the level of compliance of local communities with PA regulations was related to: (1) PA age, (2) PA area, (3) the existence of a buffer zone, (4) the level of protection as defined by IUCN categories, (5) gross domestic product per capita, (6) population density in the vicinity of PAs, and (7) the level of local community participation in PA management. We found that local community participation in the PA decision-making process was the only variable that was significantly related to the level of compliance with PA polices. In general, the higher the level of participation, the higher the level of compliance. This has important implications for PA management and suggests that greater inclusion of local communities in management should be a key strategy for ensuring the integrity of PAs.
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