Global review of social indicators used in protected area management evaluation

Social considerations in conservation are increasingly recognized as important for successful environmental outcomes. However, social measures lack consistency and may underreport key issues. This article analyzes social indicators and well-being dimensions used in protected area effectiveness tools, with specific attention to local communities and Indigenous peoples' contexts. Using the Global Protected Area Management Effectiveness database, we reviewed 2,736 indicators from 38 methodologies applied in over 180 countries. We analyzed: (1) representation of human well-being dimensions, (2) direction of impacts, and (3) level of neutrality in indicators. We found limited diversity and representation of important well-being dimensions such as health and governance. While impacts on communities and nature are similarly measured, positive wording is used three times more often than negative, which may unintentionally bias evaluations. We recommend using and developing indicators with greater diversity, increased clarity, and reduced bias to enhance management and policy responses for biodiversity and human well-being.