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Institutions, Biophysical Factors and History: An Integrative Analysis of Private and Common Property Forests in Guatemala and Honduras

Abstract

Attention to institutional arrangements has become integral to research on forest management and conservation. While strong institutions typically are associated with better forest conditions, few institutional studies have evaluated the influence of underlying biophysical factors on forest conditions. Our research compared institutional arrangements and forest conditions across nine forests in Guatemala and Honduras while accounting for biophysical characteristics. Statistical analyses found that soil nitrogen concentration, annual temperature, and annual rainfall were positively correlated with better forest conditions. Better forest conditions were in turn associated with stronger institutions. In part, the results suggest that the biophysical characteristics most favorable for high productivity, given the socioeconomic context, constitute an incentive for strong institutions. One common-property forest presented strong institutions with very good forest conditions, but stronger institutions and better forest conditions in this region typically occur with private property. The situation reflects historical contexts that have supported private property and undermined common property. The findings indicate that efforts to improve natural resource management should recognize the biophysical factors and historical contexts that facilitate or constrain strong institutions.

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Acknowledgements

Funding for this research was provided by the Center for the Study of Institutions, Population, and Environmental Change (CIPEC) and the National Science Foundation (SBR #9521918). We thank the students and researchers associated with the Universidad del Valle de Guatemala, the Guatemala Branch of the Faculty for Social Sciences in Latin America (FLACSO), the Honduran Forestry Development Corporation (COHDEFOR) and CIPEC, who assisted with field data collection. We are grateful for the support of colleagues at CIPEC and the Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis at Indiana University, and the opportunity that these centers provide for genuinely interdisciplinary research. We give special thanks to Vicky Meretsky, Elinor Ostrom and an anonymous reviewer who provided invaluable suggestions to improve the manuscript. Any errors are the responsibility of the authors. To the people of the study sites, we express deep appreciation for their patience, generosity and participation in this research.

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Tucker, C.M., Randolph, J.C. & Castellanos, E.J. Institutions, Biophysical Factors and History: An Integrative Analysis of Private and Common Property Forests in Guatemala and Honduras. Hum Ecol 35, 259–274 (2007). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-006-9087-0

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  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-006-9087-0

Key words

  • Institutions
  • Biophysical factors
  • History
  • Forest conditions
  • Private property
  • Common property
  • Guatemala
  • Honduras