, Volume 8, Issue 6, pp 630–643 | Cite as

Understanding the Interaction of Rural People with Ecosystems: A Case Study in a Tropical Dry Forest of Mexico

  • Alicia Castillo
  • Antonieta Magaña
  • Anna Pujadas
  • Lucía Martínez
  • Carmen Godínez


The aim of this study was to help understand the interaction of rural people with tropical dry forests. It was based on social research conducted in the Chamela-Cuixmala region, on the Pacific coast of Mexico. The analytical tools used in the study included stakeholder identification, environmental history and social perceptions. The two main social groups in the study were ejidatarios, who own most of the territory, and avecindados, who possess no land but have high population numbers. Through an interpretative methodological approach we documented the vision and meaning that rural people give to their natural and social worlds. The agricultural development model promoted by the Mexican government for decades was identified as the main driver of ecosystem transformation. Rural people, who arrived recently in the region, were proud of the pasture-lands that were transformed from tropical forests. Conservation policies implemented during the last two decades were viewed as impositions although people recognized the value of services provided by ecosystems. This case study has helped to unravel the main dimensions of the human system and how it relates to structures of signification. The social panorama unveiled can be used as an initial basis to promote further research on the social-ecological system of the Chamela-Cuixmala region and to develop future participatory management schemes.


human systems social-ecological systems ecosystem management tropical deciduous forest LTER developing countries stakeholders environmental history social perceptions 



This project received financial support from the Lucille and David Packard Foundation through the project Capacity building in conservation and restoration ecology in Mexico co-ordinated by Dr. José Sarukhán. The Fondo Sectorial SEMARNAT/CONACYT contributed also through the project Management of tropical forests in Mexico (SEMARNAT-2002-C01-0597) co-ordinated by Dr. Miguel Martínez-Ramos. We are most grateful to the rural communities of the Chamela-Cuixmala region who kindly opened their homes and lives for us to learn. We thank very much the anonymous reviewers for their valuable and challenging critique, Dr. Manuel Maass, Dr. Mauricio Quesada and Dr. Kathy Stoner for their fruitful observations, and Heberto Ferreira, Raúl Ahedo and Salvador Araiza for technical support.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Alicia Castillo
    • 1
  • Antonieta Magaña
    • 1
  • Anna Pujadas
    • 1
  • Lucía Martínez
    • 1
  • Carmen Godínez
    • 1
  1. 1.Centro de Investigaciones en EcosistemasUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de MéxicoMoreliaMEXICO

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