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Surprise! Biodiversity and resource use may co-exist in tropical forests
Date:3/25/2011

Contrary to popular belief, the biodiversity of a tropical forest may be conserved while its resources are used to support local household livelihoods, according to a new study published in the March 25 issue of Science. But biodiversity and resource use are most likely to successfully co-exist in forests that are managed under systems that receive inputs from local forest users or local communities.

These study results imply that one important way for governments to simultaneously promote biodiversity and forest-based livelihoods is to formalize the rights of local people to contribute to rulemakings on the management and use of local forests.

This study, which was partially funded by the National Science Foundation, was conducted by a team led by Lauren Persha of the University of Michigan.

Forest policy decentralization reforms that transfer ownership and management responsibilities to local forest user organizations have already been introduced in more than two-thirds of the developing world. However, this approach's effectiveness has been questioned because of its potential to enable elites to dominate resource use and because of potential weaknesses in links between local decision-makers and larger governing bodies.

But despite such criticism, the Persha team found that forest management inputs from local forest users and communities may promote the growth of forests that are biologically diverse and support local household livelihoods. The researchers attribute the dual success of local inputs to their potential for generating rules that support sustainability and accommodate specific local forest conditions. Such rules thereby help foster forests that support local livelihoods over the long term and so gain legitimacy and relevance.

Study results also indicate that larger tropical forests are more likely to simultaneously support biodiversity and forest-based livelihoods than are smaller tropical fore
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Contact: Lily Whiteman
lwhitema@nsf.gov
703-292-8310
National Science Foundation
Source:Eurekalert  

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