Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 17, Issue 6, pp 1303–1317 | Cite as

Monitoring, indicators and community based forest management in the tropics: pretexts or red herrings?

  • Claude A. GarciaEmail author
  • Guillaume Lescuyer
Original Paper


Over the last 20 years, transfer of the management of natural resources to local populations has been a major trend in the tropics. Many of these initiatives today incorporate the development of monitoring systems based on Criteria and Indicators (C&I), used to gauge environmental, socio-economic, and institutional consequences over a long period of time. The design of C&I at a local level involves combining scientific expertise with traditional ecological knowledge. There are numerous methods of merging these two branches of knowledge and developing a local monitoring system. The difficulty lies in setting up these local monitoring systems. A review of the literature available demonstrates that the handing over of monitoring systems to local communities has rarely been successful. In almost every case study, when the donor agency initiating the process withdrew, monitoring was either much less intensive or came to a complete stop. Despite this blatant deficiency local monitoring systems constitute an almost compulsory component of any donor-funded program/project dealing with sustainable management of natural resources. In our views, the real implementation of C&I by and for communities can only be achieved if there is a genuine devolution of management power, including responsibilities and benefits, to local stakeholders. Unless they link environmental changes to the communities’ own management decisions, formal participative monitoring systems will continue to fail.


Community based forest management Criteria and indicators Local monitoring Participation Tropical forests 



Criteria and indicators


Traditional ecological knowledge


Community based forest management


Participatory resource management


Protected area


Joint forest management



This article was presented at the GECOREV conference (Co-management of natural resources and the environment—from the local to the global sphere, University of Versailles, France) on 28th June 2006. The authors wish to thank Robert Nasi, Philippe Guizol, Emmanuel Bon, Marieke Sassen and an anonymous reviewer for their comments and Arunima Choudhury for her valuable assistance in the preparation of the manuscript.


  1. Agrawal A (2001) State formation in community spaces? Decentralization of control over forests in the Kumaon Himalaya, India. J Asian Stud 60:9–40CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Andrianandrasana HT, Randriamahefasoa J, Durbin J, Lewis RE, Ratsimbazafy JH (2005) Participatory ecological monitoring of the Alaotra wetlands in Madagascar. Biodivers Conserv 14:2757–2774CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Balint P (2006) Improving community-based conservation near protected areas: the importance of development variables. Environ Manage 38:137–148PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barbault R, Cornet A, Jouzel J, Mégie G, Sachs I, Weber J (2002) Johannesburg Sommet Mondial du Développement Durable 2002. Quels enjeux? Quelle contribution des scientifiques? Ministère des Affaires étrangères, Paris, p 205Google Scholar
  5. Bell S, Morse S (2001) Breaking through the glass ceiling: who really cares about sustainability indicators? Local Environ 6:291–309CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Bell S, Morse S (2005) Delivering sustainability therapy in sustainable development projects. J Environ Manage 75:37–51PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bonis-Charancle JM, Brown M, Akwah G, Mogba Z, Tiani AM, Lescuyer G, Warne R, Greenberg B (2007) How the community options analysis and investment tool increases analytical capability and institutional capacity in community based natural resource management. In: Diaw MC, Prabhu R, Aseh T (eds) In search for common grounds : adaptative collaborative management in Cameroon, CIFOR-ACM, Bogor, IndonesiaGoogle Scholar
  8. Borrini-Feyerabend G (1996) Collaborative management of protected areas: tailoring the approach to the context. Issues in social policies. IUCN, Gland, SwitzerlandGoogle Scholar
  9. Bouni C (1998) L’enjeu des indicateurs du développement durable. Mobiliser des besoins pour concrétiser des principes. Natures sciences sociétés 6:18–26Google Scholar
  10. Bratton M, Walle Nvd (eds) (1997) Democratic experiments in Africa: regime transitions in comparative perspective. Cambridge University Press, CambridgeGoogle Scholar
  11. Campbell BM, Sayer JA, Frost P, Vermeulen S, Ruiz Pérez M, Cuningham A, Prabhu R (2003) Assessing the performance of natural resource systems. In: Campbell BM, Sayer JA (eds) Integrated natural resource management, CABI Publishing, Oxon, UK, pp 267–292Google Scholar
  12. Chambers R (1992) Rural appraisal: rapid, relaxed and participatory. University of Sussex, BrightonGoogle Scholar
  13. Chambers R (2007) From PRA to PLA to pluralism: practice and theory. University of Sussex, BrightonGoogle Scholar
  14. Dale VH, Beyeler SC (2001) Challenges in the development and use of ecological indicators. Ecol Indic 1:3–10CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Danielsen F, Balete DS, Poulsen MK, Enghoff M, Nozawa CM, Jensen AE (2000) A simple system for monitoring biodiversity in protected areas of a developing country. Biodivers Conserv 9:1671–1705CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Danielsen F, Burgess ND, Balmford A (2005a) Monitoring matters: examining the potential of locally-based approaches. Biodivers Conserv 14:2507–2542CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Danielsen F, Jensen AE, Alviola PA, Balete DS, Mendoza M, Tagtag A, Custodio C, Enghoff M (2005b) Does monitoring matter? A quantitative assessment of management decisions from locally-based monitoring of protected areas. Biodivers Conserv 14:2633–2652CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Delius JD (1967) Displacement activities and arousal. Nature 214:1259–1260PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Edmunds D, Wollenberg E (2003) Local forest management. The impacts of devolution policies. Earthscan Publications, London, UKGoogle Scholar
  20. Failing L, Gregory R (2003) Ten common mistakes in designing biodiversity indicators for forest policy. J Environ Manage 68:121–132PubMedGoogle Scholar
  21. Fraser EDG, Dougill AJ, Mabee WE, Reed M, McAlpine P (2006) Bottom up and top down: analysis of participatory processes for sustainability indicator identification as a pathway to community empowerment and sustainable environmental management. J Environ Manage 78:114–127PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Gaidet N, Fritz H, Nyahuma C (2003) A participatory counting method to monitor populations of large mammals in non-protected areas: a case study of bicycle counts in the Zambezi Valley, Zimbabwe. Biodivers Conserv 12:1571–1585CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Garcia C, Pain-Orcet M, Dubuc S, Konerira N, Murali KS, Depommier D, Kushalappa CG, Seen DL (2004) Indicators for management of natural ressources. Case study : community based forest management in the Western Ghats (India). CIRAD, Montpellier, p 60Google Scholar
  24. Glasson J, Therivel R, Chadwick A (1994) Introduction to environmental impact assessment. UCL Press, LondonGoogle Scholar
  25. Gray M, Kalpers J (2005) Ranger based monitoring in the Virunga–Bwindi region of east-central Africa: a simple data collection tool for park management. Biodivers Conserv 14:2723–2741CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Hartanto H, Lorenzo MCB, Frio AL (2002) Collective action and learning in developing a local monitoring system. Int For Rev 4:184–195Google Scholar
  27. Hezri AA, Dovers SR (2006) Sustainability indicators, policy and governance: issues for ecological economics. Ecol Econ 60:86–99CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Karjala MK, Sherry EE, Dewhurst SM (2004) Criteria and indicators for sustainable forest planning: a framework for recording aboriginal resource and social values. For Policy Econ 6:95–110Google Scholar
  29. Karsenty A, Lescuyer G, Nasi R (2004) Establishing criteria and indicators for sustainable management of tropical forests—an impossible task? Rev Forestière Fr 56:457–472Google Scholar
  30. Kelly J, Harwell M (1990) Indicators of ecosystem recovery. Environ Manage 14:527–545CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Kushalappa CG, Garcia C (2007) Transfer of ecological knowledge between local communities, administrations and experts: barriers and uptakes at local level? ATBC Linking Tropical Biology with Human Dimensions, Morelia, MexicoGoogle Scholar
  32. Lammerts van Bueren EM, Blom EM (1997) Hierarchical framework for the formulation of sustainable forest management standards. Tropenbos FoundationGoogle Scholar
  33. Landres PB, Verner J, Thomas JW (1988) Ecological uses of vertebrate indicator species: a critique. Conserv Biol 2:316–328CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Lawrence A, Paudel K, Barnes R, Malla Y (2006) Adaptive value of participatory biodiversity monitoring in community forestry. Environ Conserv 33:325–334CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Lescuyer G, Karsenty A, Antona M (2004) Looking for sustainable tropical forest management criteria and indicators: the limitations of a normative environmental management approach. In: Babin D (ed) Beyond tropical deforestation. from tropical deforestation to forest cover dynamics and forest development. UNESCO & CIRAD, ParisGoogle Scholar
  36. Lindenmayer DB, Margules CR, Botkin DB (2000) Indicators of biodiversity for ecologically sustainable forest management. Conserv Biol 14:941–950CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. López-Ridaura S, Keulen HV, Ittersum MKv, Leffelaar PA (2005) Multiscale methodological framework to derive criteria and indicators for sustainability evaluation of peasant natural resource management systems. Environ, Dev Sustain 7:51–69CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Mendoza GA, Prabhu R (2003) Qualitative multi-criteria approaches to assessing indicators of sustainable forest resource management. For Ecol Manage 174:329–343CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Mendoza GA, Prabhu R (2005) Combining participatory modeling and multi-criteria analysis for community-based forest management. For Ecol Manage 207:145–156CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mermet L, Billé R, Leroy M, Jean-BaptisteNarcy, Pouxe X (2005) L’analyse stratégique de la gestion environnementale:un cadre théorique pour penser l’efficacité en matière d’environnement. Natures sciences sociétés 13:127–137CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Moller H, Berkes F, Lyver POB, Kislalioglu M (2004) Combining science and traditional ecological knowledge: monitoring populations for co-management. Ecol Soc 9:2Google Scholar
  42. Munn RE (ed) (1975) Environmental impact assessment: principles and procedures. ICSU-SCOPE, Toronto, OntarioGoogle Scholar
  43. Nguinguiri JC (1999) Les approches participatives dans la gestion des écosystèmes forestiers d’Afrique centrale: Revue des initiatives existantes. Occasional Paper. CIFOR, Bogor, Indonesia, 24Google Scholar
  44. Noss RF (1990) Indicators for monitoring biodiversity: a hierarchical approach. Conserv Biol 4:355–364CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Noss RF (1999) Assessing and monitoring forest biodiversity: a suggested framework and indicators. For Ecol Manage 115:135–146CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Ojha H, Pokharel B, McDougall C, Paudel K (2003) Learning to govern: how to improve monitoring system in community forestry in Nepal? J For Livelihood 2:23–34Google Scholar
  47. Palmer JA (1998) Environmental education in the 21st century: theory, practice, progress and promise. Routledge (UK), LondonGoogle Scholar
  48. Poulsen MK, Luanglath K (2005) Projects come, projects go: lessons from participatory monitoring in southern Laos. Biodiver Conserv 14:2591–2610CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Prabhu R, Colfer C, Dudley RG (2000) Guidelines for developing, testing and selecting criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management: A C&I Developer’s reference. The criteria and indicators toolbox series. CIFOR, Bogor, IndonesiaGoogle Scholar
  50. Prabhu R, Ruitenbeek HJ, Boyle TJB, Colfer CJP (2001) Between voodoo science and adaptive management: the role and research needs for indicators of sustainable forest management. In: Raison RJ, Brown AG, Flinn DW (eds) Criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management, CABI Publishing, New York, USA, pp 39–63Google Scholar
  51. Purnomo H, Mendoza GA, Prabhu R (2005) Analysis of local perspectives on sustainable forest management: an Indonesian case study. J Environ Manage 74:111–126PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Raison RJ, Flinn DW, Brown AG (2001) Criteria and indicators for sustainable forest management. CABI PublishingGoogle Scholar
  53. Reed MS, Dougill AJ (2002) Participatory selection process for indicators of rangeland condition in the Kalahari. Geogr J 168:224–234CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Reed MS, Fraser EDG, Dougill AJ (2005) An adaptive learning process for developing and applying sustainability indicators with local communities. Ecol Econ 59:406–418CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Ribot J (2004) Waiting for democracy: the politics of choice in natural resource decentralisation. World Resource Institute, Washington DCGoogle Scholar
  56. Ribot J, Larson AM (2005) Democratic decentralisation through a natural resource lens: cases from Africa, Asia and Latin America. Routledge, Oxon, UKGoogle Scholar
  57. Riley J (2001) The indicator explosion: local needs and international challenges. Agric,Ecosyst Environ 87:119–120CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Ruitenbeek J, Cartier C (1998) Rational exploitations: economic criteria & indicators for sustainable management of tropical forests. CIFOR Occasional Paper. CIFOR, Bogor, Indonesia, p 56Google Scholar
  59. Scoones I (1998) Sustainable rural livelihoods: a framework for analysis. University of Sussex, BrightonGoogle Scholar
  60. Sheil D (2001) Conservation and biodiversity monitoring in the tropics: realities, priorities, and distractions. Conserv Biol 15:1179–1182CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Sheil D, Lawrence A (2004) Tropical biologists, local people and conservation: new opportunities for collaboration. Trends Ecol Evol 19:634–638PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Stuart-Hill G, Diggle R, Munali B, Tagg J, Ward D (2005) The event book system: a community-based natural resource monitoring system from Namibia. Biodivers Conserv 14:2611–2631CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Tiani AM, Bonis-Charancle JM (2007) Simple criteria and indicators to uncover and negotiate local perceptions on sustainability. For, Trees Livelihoods 17:3–22Google Scholar
  64. Topp-Jorgensen E, Poulsen MK, Lund JF, Massao JF (2005) Community-based monitoring of natural resource use and forest quality in montane forests and miombo woodlands of Tanzania. Biodivers Conserv 14:2653–2677CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. van Rijsoort J, Jinfeng Z (2005) Participatory resource monitoring as a means for promoting social change in Yunnan, China. Biodivers Conserv 14:2543–2573CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Vernooy R, Qiu S, Xu J (2006) The power of participatory monitoring and evaluation: insights from south-west China. Dev Pract 16:400–411CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Westley F, Carpenter SR, Brock WA, Holling CS, Gunderson LH (2002) Why systems of people and nature are not just social and ecological systems. In: Gunderson LH, Holling CS (eds) Panarchy. Understanding transformations in human and natural systems, Island Press, Washington, DC, pp 103–119Google Scholar
  68. Wollenberg E, Anderson J, Lopez C (2005) Though all things differ: pluralism as a basis for cooperation in forests. CIFOR, Bogor, IndonesiaGoogle Scholar
  69. Yuan W, James P, Hodgson K, Hutchinson SM, Shi C (2003) Development of sustainability indicators by communities in China: a case study of Chongming County, Shanghai. J Environ Manage 68:253–261PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.CIRAD/French Institute of PondicherryPondicherryIndia
  2. 2.CIRAD/CIFORYaoundeCameroon

Personalised recommendations