, Volume 3, Issue 4, pp 255-261
Date: 11 Nov 2006

Linking Human and Ecosystem Health: The Benefits of Community Involvement in Conservation Groups

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Abstract

This study explored the health, well-being, and social capital benefits gained by community members who are involved in the management of land for conservation in six rural communities across Victoria. A total of 102 people participated in the study (64 males; 38 females) comprising 51 members of a community-based land management group and 51 controls matched by age and gender. Mixed methods were employed, including the use of an adapted version of Buckner’s (1988) Community Cohesion Scale. The results indicate that involvement in the management of land for conservation may contribute to both the health and well-being of members, and to the social capital of the local community. The members of the land management groups rated their general health higher, reported visiting the doctor less often, felt safer in the local community, and utilized the skills that they have acquired in their lifetime more frequently than the control participants. Male members reported the highest level of general health, and the greatest satisfaction with daily activities. Members also reported a greater sense of belonging to the local community and a greater willingness to work toward improving their community than their control counterparts. Of equal importance is evidence that involvement in voluntary conservation work constitutes a means of building social capital in rural communities which may help reduce some of the negative aspects of rural life.