, Volume 17, Issue 8, pp 2023-2036
Date: 23 Nov 2007

Participatory forest monitoring: an assessment of the accuracy of simple cost–effective methods

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Abstract

International forest policies have recently increased the focus on involvement of local communities in forest monitoring and management as a strategy to improve biodiversity conservation efforts and local livelihood in developing countries. However, little is known about feasible methods, costs and accuracy of participatory monitoring schemes in developing countries. This paper examines the costs, accuracy and local reproducibility of three simple cost–effective methods for monitoring forest disturbance by local participants: (1) 20-trees method, (2) Bitterlich gauge method and (3) Disturbance Checklist transect. Using one of these methods the costs of monitoring forest habitats are only between US$ 0.04 and 0.12 ha−1 annually, depending on the methods used, this is significantly cheaper than the costs of traditional scientific methods for biodiversity monitoring. Results indicate that local community members without former scientific training can collect accurate data on habitat loss and forest disturbance after only a few days of introduction to the methods, and thereby contribute with valuable information for natural resource management. The strengths and weaknesses of monitoring done, respectively, by local community members and educated biologists, respectfully, are discussed. It is suggested that these approaches should be seen as supplements to each other rather than substitutes. Finally, it is argued that monitoring schemes in developing countries can be sustained after donor funds have ceased only if the local communities play a central role and clear financially and/or socially incentives for members of the local community are incorporated.