Human Ecology

, 36:383 | Cite as

The Local Perception of Tropical Deforestation and its Relation to Conservation Policies in Los Tuxtlas Biosphere Reserve, Mexico



We examine the ways both deforestation and conservation are viewed by people of two villages with different ethnic composition located within the biosphere reserve of Los Tuxtlas, Mexico. The rain forest is considered to be important, since it provides many resources and environmental benefits. Residents do notice forest degradation, although deforestation is not one of their major concerns. In the mestizo village, 65% of interviewees indicated they felt responsible for deforestation, while only 30% of indigenous villagers felt the same. In both communities, nearly half the respondents see themselves as powerless to take actions to preserve the forest. We analyzed the management plan for the reserve in light of our results, and found authorities’ perceptions differ from that of local communities. This study emphasizes the lack of factual data and common goals for biodiversity conservation. Our work points to the urgency to build conservation efforts that involve the different social actors, who diverge in interests and views, particularly in countries like Mexico, where rich biodiversity regions are also broadly inhabited.


Mexico Deforestation Perception Protected areas Conservation policies 


  1. Abbot, J. O., and Thomas, D. L. (2001). Understanding the links between conservation and development in the Bamenda Higlands, Cameroon. World Development 29(7): 1115–1136.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Alix Garcia, J., de Janvry, A., and Sadoulet, E. (2005). A tale of two communities: explaining deforestation in Mexico. World Development 33(2):219–235.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arizpe, L., Paz, F., and Velázquez, M. (1993). Cultura y Cambio Global: Percepciones Sociales Sobre La Deforestación En La Selva Lacandona. Universidad Nacional Autonoma de Mexico and Miguel Angel Porrua, Mexico.Google Scholar
  4. Ávila, J. L., Fuentes, C., and Turián, R. (2002). Indices De Marginacion A Nivel Localidad, 2000. CONAPO-SEDESOL, Mexico.Google Scholar
  5. Bauer, H. (2003). Local perceptions of Waza National Park, Northern Cameroon. Environmental Conservation 30(2): 175–181.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Brechin, S. R. (2003). Wandering boundaries and illegal residents. The political ecology of protected area deforestation in South Sumatra Indonesia from 1979 to 1992. In Brechin, S. R., Wilshusen, P. R., Fortwrangler, C. L., and West, P. C. (eds.), Contested nature. Promoting international biodiversity with social justice in the Twenty-First Century. State University of New York, New York, pp. 59–72.Google Scholar
  7. Brechin, S. R., Wilshunsen, P. R., Fortwrangler, C. L., and West, P. C. (2002). Beyond the square wheel: toward a more comprehensive understanding of biodiversity conservation as a social and political process. Society and Natural Resources 15: 41–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brown, R., and Harris, G. (2005). Comanagement of wildlife corridors: the case for citizen participation in the algonquin to adirondack proposal. Journal of Environmental Management 74: 97–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. CONABIO. (1998). La Diversidad Biológica de Mexico. Estudio de País. CONABIO, Mexico.Google Scholar
  10. CONANP. (2003). Sistema De Metas Presidenciales. CONANP, Mexico Manuscript.Google Scholar
  11. CONANP. (2004). Programa de Conservación y manejo. Borrador. Reserva de la Biosfera Los Tuxtlas. Marzo de 2004. CONANP, Mexico Manuscript.Google Scholar
  12. CONANP. (2006). Programa de Conservación y Manejo de la Biosfera de Los Tuxltas. México. CONANP, México.Google Scholar
  13. Demeritt, D. (1998). Science, social constructivism and nature. In Braun, B., and Castree, N. (eds.), Remaking Reality. Nature at the Millennium. Routledge, London, pp. 173–193.Google Scholar
  14. Dirzo, R., and García, M. (1992). Rates of Deforestation in Los Tuxtlas, A Neotropical Area in Southeast Mexico. Conservation Biology 6: 84–90.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Dirzo, R., and Miranda, A. (1997). El Límite Boreal De La Selva Húmeda En El Continente Americano: Contradicción De La Vegetación y Solución De Una Controversia. Interciencia 16: 240–247.Google Scholar
  16. Durand, L. (2000). La colonización de la Sierra de Santa Marta. Perspectivas ambientales y deforestación en una región de Veracruz. Ph. D. Thesis. Facultad de Filosofía y Letras, UNAM. México.Google Scholar
  17. Durand, L. (2005). La Comprensión Local Del Ambientalismo En La Sierra de Santa Marta, Veracruz. Mirada Antropológica 4: 47–67.Google Scholar
  18. Durand, L., and Lazos, E. (2004). Colonization and Tropical Deforestation in the Sierra Santa Marta, Southern Mexico. Environmental Conservation 31(1): 11–21.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dustin Becker, C. (2003). Grassroots to Grassroots: Why Forest Preservation was Rapid at Loma Alta, Ecuador. World Development 31(1): 163–176.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Escobar, A. (2002). Constructing nature. Elements for a poststrucural political ecology. In Peet, R., and Watts, M. (eds.), Liberation Ecologies. Environment. Development, Social Movements, Routledge, London, pp. 46–68.Google Scholar
  21. Faust, B. B. (2001). Maya Environmental Success and Failures in the Yucatan Peninsula. Environmental Science and Policy 4: 153–169.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fiallo, E. A., and Jacobson, S. K. (1995). Local Communities and Protected Areas: Attitudes of Rural Residents Towards Conservation and Machalilla National Park, Ecuador. Environmental Conservation 22(3): 241–249.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Geoghegan, Cortina Villar, S., Klepeis, P., Macario Mendoza, P., Ogneva-Himmelberger, Y., Roy Chowdhury, R., Turner, B. L. II, and Vance, C. (2001). Modeling Tropical Deforestation in the Southern Yucatán Peninsular Region: Comparing Survey and Satellite Data. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 85: 25–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Ghimire, K. B., and Pimbert, M. P. (2000). Social change and conservation: an overview of issues and concepts. In Ghimire, K. B., and Pimbert, M. P. (eds.), Social change and conservation. UNRISD, London, pp. 1–45.Google Scholar
  25. Gibson, C., and Marks, S. (1995). Transforming rural hunters into conservationists: an assessment of community-based wildlife management programs in Africa. World Development 23: 941–957.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gillingham, S., and Lee, P. C. (1999). The impact of wildlife-related benefits on the conservation attitudes of local people around the Seleous Game Reserve, Tanzania. Environmental Conservation 26(3): 218–228.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Haenn, N. (1999). The power of environmental knowledge: ethnoecology and environmental conflicts in Mexican conservation. Human Ecology 27(3): 477–491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Hill, C. M. (1998). Conflicting attitudes towards elephants around the Budongo Forest Reserve, Uganda. Environmental Conservation 25(3): 244–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. INE/CONABIO. (1995). Reservas De La Biosfera y Otras Areas Naturales Protegidas De Mexico. INE/CONABIO, Mexico.Google Scholar
  30. INEGI. (1995). Veracruz. Conteo de Población y Vivienda 1995. Resultados Definitivos. Tabulados básicos. Tomo I. INEGI, Mexico.Google Scholar
  31. INEGI. (1996). Anuario Estadistico Del Estado De Veracruz. Tomo I y II. INEGI, Mexico.Google Scholar
  32. INEGI. (2006). II Conteo De Población y Vivienda 2005. Principales resultados por localidad. INEGI, Mexico.Google Scholar
  33. Infield, M. (1988). Attitudes of a rural community towards conservation and a local conservation area in Natal, South Africa. Biological Conservation 45: 21–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Kaus, A. (1993). Environmental perceptions and social relations in the Mapimí Biosphere Reserve. Conservation Biology 7(2): 398–406.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. La Jornada. 11 de mayo 2002. Reserva de Los Tuxtlas. Declaran extintas 6 especies animales. México.Google Scholar
  36. Landa, R., Meave, J., and Carabias, J. (1997). Environmental deterioration in Rural Mexico: an examination of the concept. Ecological Applications 7: 316–329.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Lazos Chavero, E. (1996). El Encuentro De Subjetividades en La Ganaderia Campesina. Ciencias 44: 36–44.Google Scholar
  38. Lazos, E., and Pare, L. (2000). Miradas Indígenas Sobre Una Naturaleza Entristecida. Percepciones Del Deterioro Ambiental Entre Nahuas Del Sur De Veracruz. UNAM, México.Google Scholar
  39. Little, P. D. (1994). The link between local participation and improved conservation: A review of issues and experiences. In Western, D., and Wright, R. M. (eds.), Natural connections. Perspectives in community-based conservation. Island, Washington, pp. 347–372.Google Scholar
  40. Marcus, R. R. (2001). Seeing the forests for the trees: integrated conservation and development projects and local perceptions of conservation in Madagascar. Human Ecology 29(4): 381–397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Mas, J. F., Velásquez, A., Díaz Gallegos, J. R., Mayorga Saucedo, R., Alcantara, C., Bocco, G., Castro, R., Fernandez, T., and Perez Vega, A. (2004). Assessing land use/cover changes: a nationwide multidate spatial database for Mexico. International Journal of Applied Earth Observation and Geoinformation 5: 249–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Masera, O., Ordoñez, M. J., and Dirzo, R. (1997). Carbon Mexican forests: currents situations and long-term scenarios. Climatic Change 35: 265–295.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Mehta, J. N., and Kellert, S. R. (1998). Local attitudes toward community-based conservation policy and programmes in Nepal: a case study in the Makalu-Barum conservation area. Environmental Conservation 25(4): 320–333.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Merino Pérez, L., and Hernández Apolinar, M. (2004). Destrucción De Instituciones Comunitarias y Deterioro De Los Bosques En La Reserva De La Biosfera Mariposa Monarca, Michoacán, México. Revista Mexicana de Sociología 66(2): 261–309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Milton, K. (1996). Environmentalism and cultural theory. Exploring the role of Anthropology in Environmental Discourse. Routledge, London.Google Scholar
  46. Mkabda, F. X., and Munthali, S. M. (1994). Public attitudes and needs around Kasungu National Park, Malawi. Biodiversity and Conservation 3: 29–44.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Montgomery, C. A. (2002). Ranking the benefitis of biodiversity: an exploration of relative values. Journal of Environmental Management 65: 313–326.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Murphy, J. E. (2003). Ethnography and sustainable development in the Calakmul Model Forests, Campeche, Mexico. Ph.D. Dissertation. Faculty of Graduate Studies, York University, Canada.Google Scholar
  49. Nygren, A. (2004). Contested lands and incompatible images: the political ecology of struggle over resources in Nicaragua’s Indio-Maíz reserve. Society and Natural Resources 17: 189–205.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Ochoa Gaona, S., and Gonzalez Espinosa, M. (2000). Land use and deforestation in the highlands of Chiapas, Mexico. Applied Geography 20: 17–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Paré, L., Velázquez, H., Gutiérrez, R., Ramirez, F., Hernández, A., Lozada, M. P., Perales, H., and Blanco, J. L. (1997). La Reserva Especial de la Biosfera, Sierra de Santa Marta, Veracruz. Diagnóstico y perspective. SEMARNAP, UNAM-IIS and PSSM A.C., México.Google Scholar
  52. Parry, A., and Campbell, B. (1992). Attitudes of rural communities to animal wildlife and its utilization in Chobe Enclave and Mababe Depression, Botswana. Environmental Conservation 19(3): 245–252.Google Scholar
  53. Paz, M. F. (1995). Selvas Tropicales y Deforestación. Apuntes para la historia reciente del trópico húmedo mexicano. In Paz, M. F. (ed.), De Bosques y Gentes. Aspectos Sociales de la Deforestación en América Latina. CRIM-UNAM, Mexico, pp. 53–88.Google Scholar
  54. Paz Salinas, M. F. (2005). La Participación En El Manejo De Áreas Naturales Protegidas. Actores E Intereses En Conflicto En El Corredor Biológico Chichinautzin, Morelos. CRIM-UNAM, México.Google Scholar
  55. Picard, C. H. (2003). Post-apartheid perceptions of the Greater St. Lucia Wetland Park, South Africa. Environmental Conservation 30(2): 182–191.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Pimbert, M. P., and Pretty, J. N. (2000). Parks, people and professionals: putting ‘participation’ into protected area management. In Ghimire, K. B., and Pimbert, M. P. (eds.), Social change and conservation. UNRISD, London, pp. 297–330.Google Scholar
  57. PSSM A.C./GEF/CIIMYT (1996). Desarrollo sustentable y conservación de la biodiversidad: un estudio de caso en la Sierra de Santa Marta, Veracruz. Resultados preliminaries. PSSM A.C., México Manuscript.Google Scholar
  58. PSSM A.C./CRUO-UACH/SEMARNAP (1997). Programa de desarrollo regional sustentable de Los Tuxtlas-Santa Marta. Documento preliminary. PSSM A.C., México Manuscript.Google Scholar
  59. Ramírez, R. F. (1999). Flora y vegetación de la Sierra de Santa Marta. Lic. Thesis. Universidad Nacional Autonoma de México, México.Google Scholar
  60. Rao, K. S., Maikhuri, R. K., Nautiyal, S., and Saxena, K. G. (2002). Crop damage and livestock depredation by wildlife: a case study from Nanda Devi Biosphere Reserve, India. Journal of Environmental Management 66: 317–327.Google Scholar
  61. Redford, K. H., and Maclean Stearman, A. (1993). Forests-dwelling native Amazonians and the conservation of biodiversity: interests in common or in collision. Conservation Biology 7(2): 248–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. SEMARNAT. (2000). La Gestión Ambiental En Mexico. SEMARNAP, Mexico.Google Scholar
  63. Sierra, R. (1999). Traditional resource-use systems and tropical deforestation in a multiethnic region in North-West Ecuador. Environmental Conservation 26: 136–145.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Ticktin, T., John, T., and Chapol Xoca, V. (2003). Patterns of growth in Aechmea Magdalenae (Bromeliaceae) and its potential as a forest’s crop and conservation strategy. Agriculture, Ecosystems and Environment 94: 123–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Toledo, V. M., Ortíz Espeje, B., Cortés, L., Moguel, P., and Ordóñez, M. J. (2003). The multiple use of tropical forest by indigenous people in Mexico: a case of adaptative management. Conservation Ecology 7(3): 9[online] URL: Scholar
  66. Trauernicht, C., and Ticktin, T. (2005). The Effects of Non-Timber Forests Product Cultivation on the Plant Community Structure and Composition of a Humid Tropical Forest in Southern Mexico. Forest Ecology and Management. In press.Google Scholar
  67. Tudela, F. (1989). La modernizacióon forzada del trópico: el caso de Tabasco. Proyecto integrado del Golfo. El Colegio de México/Centro de Investigación y Estudios Avanzados del IPN/Federación Internacional de Centros de Estudios Avanzados/Instituto de Investigaciones de las Naciones Unidas para el Desarrollo Social, México.Google Scholar
  68. Turner, B. L. II, Cortina Villar, S., Foster, D., Goeghegan, J., Keys, E., Klepeis, P., Lawrence, D., Macario Mendoza, P., Manson, S., Ogneva-Himmelberger, Y., Plotkin, A. B., Perez Salicrup, D., Roy Chowdhury, R., Savitsky, B., Schneider, L., Schmook, B., and Vance, C. (2001). Deforestation in the Southern Yucatan Peninsular Region: An Integrative Approach. Forest Ecology and Management 154: 353–370.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  69. Vance, C., and Goehegan, J. (2002). Temporal and Spatial Modeling of Tropical Deforestation: a Survival Analysis Linking Satellite and Household Survey Data. Agricultural Economics 27: 317–332.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Velazquez, A., Mas, J. F., Mayorga Saucedo, R., Diaz, J. R., Alcantara, C., Castro, R., Fernandez, T., Palacio, J. L., Bocco, G., Gomez Rodríguez, G., Luna Gonzalez, L., Trejo, I., Lopez García, J., Palma, M., Peralta, A., Prado Molina, J., and Gonzalez Medrano, F. (2002). Estado actual y dinámica de los recursos forestales de México. Biodiversitas 41: 8–15CONABIO, Mexico.Google Scholar
  71. Velazquez, A., Durand, E., Ramírez, I., Mas, J. F., Bocco, G., Ramírez, G., and Palacio, J. L. (2003). Land Use-Cover Change Process in Highly Biodiverse Areas: The Case of Oaxaca, Mexico. Global Environmental Change 13: 175–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  72. Walpole, M. J., and Goodwin, H. J. (2001). Local Attitudes Towards Conservation and Tourism Around Komodo National Park, Indonesia. Environmental Conservation 28(2): 160–166.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Weladji, R. B., Moe, S. R., and Vedeld, P. (2003). Stake Holder Attitudes Towards Wildlife Policy and the Bénoué Wildlife Conservation Area, North Cameroon. Environmental Conservation 30(4): 334–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Well, M. P., and McShane, T. O. (2004). Integrating Protected Area Management with Local Needs and Aspirations. Ambio 33(8): 513–519.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Western, D., Wright, R. M., and Strum, S. C. (1994). Natural Connections: Perspectives in Community-Based Conservation. Island Press, Washington.Google Scholar
  76. Wilshusen, P. R. (2003). Exploring the political contours of conservation. A conceptual view of power in practice. In Brechin, S. R., Wilshusen, P. R., Fortwrangler, C. L., and West, P. C. (eds.), Contested Nature. Promoting International Biodiversity with Social Justice in the Twenty-First Century. State University of New York, New York, pp. 41–58.Google Scholar
  77. Wilshusen, P. R., Brechin, S. T., Fortwrangler, C. L., and West, P. C. (2002). Reinventing the Square Wheel: Critique of a Resurgent ‘Protection Paradigm’ in International Biodiversity Conservation. Society and Natural Resources 15: 1–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  78. Zimmerman, B., Peres, C. A., Malcom, J. R., and Turner, T. (2001). Conservation and Development Alliances with the Kayapó of South-Eastern Amazonia, A Tropical Forest Indigenous People. Environmental Conservation 28(1): 10–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centro Regional de Investigaciones MultidisciplinariasUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)MorelosMéxico
  2. 2.Instituto de Investigaciones SocialesUniversidad Nacional Autónoma de México (UNAM)CoyoacánMéxico

Personalised recommendations