Connecting a coastal Reserve with its Surroundings

Published: 24 August 2015
Last edited: 16 January 2018
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“Connecting a coastal Reserve with its Surroundings” is a process that is addressing the problem of floods inside Monterrico Multiple Use Natural Reserve for the benefit of Reserve’s inhabitants, through the engagement and inclusion of new stakeholders, broadening the scope management and a setting a new scale of actions.


Central America
Scale of implementation
Freshwater ecosystems
Marine and coastal ecosystems
Wetland (swamp, marsh, peatland)
Coastal and marine spatial management
Connectivity / transboundary conservation
Disaster risk reduction
Habitat fragmentation and degradation
Outreach & communications
Protected area governance
Sustainable livelihoods
Sustainable development goals
SDG 14 – Life below water
SDG 15 – Life on land


Monterrico, Guatemala


The challenges the solution seeks to address are:

  1. Negative effects of floods on ecosystems and human settlements inside the Reserve.
  2. Alterations in watersheds and their effects on coastal wetlands.
  3. Narrow scope management that overlooks connections between the Reserve and its surroundings.


The main beneficiaries of this solution are:

  1. Inhabitants of Monterrico Reserve
  2. People depending on economic activities taking place in the area, mainly tourism and fishery.

How do the building blocks interact?

The first step is to understand the relationships between the Protected Area and its surroundings and to comprehend the scale in which ecosystems, processes, drivers of change and stressors take place inside and outside of the protected area (Conceptual Ecological Model). Based on this understanding, it is possible that the protected area’s scale of actions and management scope are not enough to assure its long term viability. If this is the case, a new scale and broader scope of management for the protected area is needed. Secondly, once adopted a new scale and broader scope of management actions, it is also needed to determine all the stakeholders involved on it, and engage them in a permanent process of participation. Finally, the new management scale, broaden management scope and new stakeholder setting need to be formally recognised into the protected area management, meaning this, to be included in its highest level of planning (its management plan).


During this ongoing process, intermediate results have been achieved for the management of the Reserve: a) new scale of management actions; b) broader governance arrangements; and c) wider scope of management. Additionally, some initial impacts of this process are: a) Reserve’s managers and inhabitants have gained better understanding of the magnitude and scale of the flood problem inside the Reserve. b) The process highlighted the necessity to carry out conservation actions outside the Reserve to maintain ecosystem integrity and control floods happening inside the protected area.


Monterrico’s inhabitants continuously affected by floods, have perceived an increase on their intensity and frequency; considering this, as a consequence of alterations of the watershed made by sugarcane mills. In search of a way to face this problem, inhabitants asked the University of San Carlos of Guatemala (USAC) to intermediate in this issue and try to find a shared solution; this, due to the University through the Centre for Conservation Studies (CECON) is the institution in charge of the Reserve’s management and because of it is a public institution highly known at national level. For doing so, CECON organised a series of field trips along the entire watersheds in which important stakeholders participated to understand the causes behind the flood problems, as an important element in the process of constructing a Conceptual Ecological Model, aiming to make clear all those key interlinks between the Reserve and its surroundings. The realisation of these interlinks, led also to understand that working only inside the Reserve won’t be enough to deal effectively with flood problems. Thus, a bigger working area was considered; however, a bigger area also meant that it would be necessary to coordinate and work together with other stakeholders, not taken into account in the current management of the Reserve. In the same way, it was considered during this process that all those insights gained must be mainstreamed into the Reserve’s management, and the best way to do that would be including them into the Reserve’s highest planning tool, its Master Plan. Hence, the updating process of the current Master Plan began and is still ongoing, and aims to establish a new scale of actions, broader scope of management and new governance scheme, which acknowledge its surroundings.

Contributed by

Francisco Castaneda Moya


Centre for Conservation Studies, University of San Carlos of Guatemala
Centre for Conservation Studies, University of San Carlos of Guatemala