March 28, 2011

Community-led forest management offers biodiversity benefits to tropical rainforests

Research has shown community-led forest management has the greatest benefit for rainforests and the local population.

According to researchers from the Universities of Michigan and Illinois, participation from local communities in forest management increases the economic benefits and biodiversity of the forests.

After analysing forest practices at over 80 sites in East Africa and South Asia, the researchers demonstrate how local participation can improve the social and ecological benefits offered by forests.  Rather than destroying rainforest, households can depend on them for subsistence, firewood, livestock fodder and house construction materials.

At the same time, higher biodiversity can be achieved when the resources are managed with a long term view in mind.

The study used found that in 27 percent of cases both biodiversity levels and livelihood dependence were above average, matching the criteria for sustainable forests.  Furthermore, the analysis suggests that forests are significantly more likely to be sustainable when local users have a formally recognised right to decision-making about forest management.

“This is one of the first studies to look closely at real life case-studies where communities demonstrate sustainable practices in forest management,” says Matthew Owen, Director of rainforest conservation charity Cool Earth. “It’s good to see that the evidence backs up what Cool Earth have always proposed – given the rights and opportunity to manage their own forests, most forest-dwelling communities will do a better job than outsiders.”

“This report confirms that Cool Earth’s strategy of working hand-in-hand with indigenous forest communities is the best way forward,” concludes Owen.



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