Indicators of biodiversity and ecosystem services in community forestry: insights from Nepal

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Community forestry (CF) is becoming an increasingly popular approach to forest management globally. Community-managed forests (CMF) support biodiversity and provide a broad range of ecosystem goods and services (EGS) to nearby communities and beyond. However, the role of CMF is often undervalued due to a lack of understanding of the interactions between ecological processes, the provision of EGS and biodiversity in CMF under changing land uses. Knowledge of appropriate indicators for biodiversity and ecosystem services (BES) at local level enhances understanding of such interactions and supports communities and policy makers in identifying gaps and adopting an ecosystem services approach in CF management. This paper examines how and to what extent CMF delivers a wide range of EGS to local communities. More specifically, the study identifies local level indicators to assess BES from CMF. These indicators are tested in three CFM projects representing three ecological zones in central and western Nepal. A combination of participatory approaches, focus group discussions, key informant surveys, expert opinion consultations and geo-spatial tools, was utilised. The study proposes a bundle of indicators at local scale for BES applicable to wider ecological regions. The paper also explores the strengths and weaknesses of the chosen indicators and indicates how they can be used for effective assessment and monitoring of BES CMF landscapes, where relevant data are poorly available. By developing an innovative participatory approach to identify and assess BES at local level, this study not only informs stakeholders about the role of community forestry in providing BES in Nepal, but also the approach can be utilised to assess BES in government-managed forests in Nepal and other developing countries.

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