Perceptions of risk in communities near parks in an African biodiversity hotspot

Abstract

Understanding conservation and livelihood threats in park landscapes is important to informing conservation policy. To identify threats, we examined perceived risks of residents living near three national parks in Uganda. We used cross-sectional household data to document, rank, and measure severity of perceived risks. Three risk categories, grouped into protected area, climate, and health, were cited by 80 % of respondents and received the highest severity scores. Elevation, proximity to the park, local forest loss, recent population change, and measures of poverty were the most important variables in predicting whether or not an individual identified these risks as the most or second most severe risk. Health issues were cited throughout the landscape, while problems attributed to climate (mainly insufficient rainfall) were reported to be most severe farther from the park. Increased population density was associated with increased perceived risk of health challenges, but decreased perceived risks attributed to the park and climate. Participatory risk mapping provides the opportunity to make standardized comparisons across sites, to help identify commonalities and differences, as a first step to examining the degree to which conservation management might address some of these local challenges and where mitigation techniques might be transferable between different sites or conflict scenarios.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Research results were communicated by C.A. MacKenzie to village chairpersons around KNP in 2012. This comment was made during one of those feedback meetings, although many chairpersons concurred that the climate for agriculture was better near the park.

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Acknowledgements

This research was supported by the National Science Foundation (1114977) and National Geographic Committee on Research and Exploration grants. We are grateful to our Ugandan field assistants for their hard work and dedication, Irene Feretti and Brian Devine for data entry, and our study participants. The authors give a big shout out to Tim Baird for his assistance. Makerere University Biological Field Station, Uganda Wildlife Authority, Uganda National Council for Science and Technology, and many local officials provided useful assistance and granted permission for this research.

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Correspondence to Joel Hartter.

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Hartter, J., Dowhaniuk, N., MacKenzie, C.A. et al. Perceptions of risk in communities near parks in an African biodiversity hotspot. Ambio 45, 692–705 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s13280-016-0775-8

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Keywords

  • Risk perception
  • Protected areas
  • Population growth
  • Albertine Rift
  • Climate variability