Participatory assessment and mapping of ecosystem services in a data-poor region: Case study of community-managed forests in central Nepal

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Community-managed forests (CMF) provide vital ecosystem services (ES) for local communities. However, the status and trend of ES in CMF have not been assessed in many developing countries because of a lack of appropriate data, tools, appropriate policy or management framework. Using a case study of community-managed forested landscape in central Nepal, this paper aims to identify and map priority ES and assess the temporal change in the provision of ES between 1990 and 2013. Semi-structured interviews, focus group discussions, transect walks and participatory mapping were used to identify and assess priority ES. The results indicated that community forestry has resulted in the substantial restoration of forests on degraded lands over the period of 1990-2013. Local community members and experts consider that this restoration has resulted in a positive impact on various ES beneficial for local, regional, national and international users. Priority ES identified in the study included timber, firewood, freshwater, carbon sequestration, water regulation, soil protection, landscape beauty as well as biodiversity. There were strong variations in the valuation of different ES between local people and experts, between genders and between different status and income classes in the local communities. In general, whereas CMF provide considerable benefits at larger scales, local people have yet to perceive the real value of these different ES provided by their forest management efforts. The study demonstrated that participatory tools, combined with free-access satellite images and repeat photography are suitable approaches to engage local communities in discussions regarding ES and to map and prioritise ES values.

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