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Linkages between measures of biodiversity and community resilience in Pacific Island agroforests

Ticktin, Tamara, Quazi, Shimona, Dacks, Rachel, Tora, Mesulame, McGuigan, Ashley, Hastings, Zoe, Naikatini, Alivereti
Conservation biology 2018 v.32 no.5 pp. 1085-1095
agroecosystems, agroforestry, biodiversity conservation, coastal forests, environmental knowledge, farms, food security, households, livelihood, lowland forests, models, social networks, species richness, structural equation modeling, surveys, trees, Fiji
Designing agroecosystems that are compatible with the conservation of biodiversity is a top conservation priority. However, the social variables that drive native biodiversity conservation in these systems are poorly understood. We devised a new approach to identify social–ecological linkages that affect conservation outcomes in agroecosystems and in social‐ecological systems more broadly. We focused on coastal agroforests in Fiji, which, like agroforests across other small Pacific Islands, are critical to food security, contain much of the country's remaining lowland forests, and have rapidly declining levels of native biodiversity. We tested the relationships among social variables and native tree species richness in agroforests with structural equation models. The models were built with data from ecological and social surveys in 100 agroforests and associated households. The agroforests hosted 95 native tree species of which almost one‐third were endemic. Fifty‐eight percent of farms had at least one species considered threatened at the national or international level. The best‐fit structural equation model (R² = 47.8%) showed that social variables important for community resilience—local ecological knowledge, social network connectivity, and livelihood diversity—had direct and indirect positive effects on native tree species richness. Cash‐crop intensification, a driver of biodiversity loss elsewhere, did not negatively affect native tree richness within parcels. Joining efforts to build community resilience, specifically by increasing livelihood diversity, local ecological knowledge, and social network connectivity, may help conservation agencies conserve the rapidly declining biodiversity in the region.