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Conserv Biol. 2009 Feb;23(1):31-42. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2008.01063.x. Epub 2008 Sep 15.

Local participation in natural resource monitoring: a characterization of approaches.

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Nordic Agency for Development and Ecology (NORDECO), Skindergade 23-III, Copenhagen, DK-1159, Denmark.


The monitoring of trends in the status of species or habitats is routine in developed countries, where it is funded by the state or large nongovernmental organizations and often involves large numbers of skilled amateur volunteers. Far less monitoring of natural resources takes place in developing countries, where state agencies have small budgets, there are fewer skilled professionals or amateurs, and socioeconomic conditions prevent development of a culture of volunteerism. The resulting lack of knowledge about trends in species and habitats presents a serious challenge for detecting, understanding, and reversing declines in natural resource values. International environmental agreements require signatories undertake systematic monitoring of their natural resources, but no system exists to guide the development and expansion of monitoring schemes. To help develop such a protocol, we suggest a typology of monitoring categories, defined by their degree of local participation, ranging from no local involvement with monitoring undertaken by professional researchers to an entirely local effort with monitoring undertaken by local people. We assessed the strengths and weaknesses of each monitoring category and the potential of each to be sustainable in developed or developing countries. Locally based monitoring is particularly relevant in developing countries, where it can lead to rapid decisions to solve the key threats affecting natural resources, can empower local communities to better manage their resources, and can refine sustainable-use strategies to improve local livelihoods. Nevertheless, we recognize that the accuracy and precision of the monitoring undertaken by local communities in different situations needs further study and field protocols need to be further developed to get the best from the unrealized potential of this approach. A challenge to conservation biologists is to identify and establish the monitoring system most relevant to a particular situation and to develop methods to integrate outputs from across the spectrum of monitoring schemes to produce wider indices of natural resources that capture the strengths of each.

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