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Are Mayan community forest reserves effective in fulfilling people's needs and preserving tree species?

Levy-Tacher, Samuel Israel, Ramírez-Marcial, Neptalí, Navarrete-Gutiérrez, Darío Alejandro, Rodríguez-Sánchez, Perla Victoria
Journal of environmental management 2019 v.245 pp. 16-27
agricultural land, forest products, forest reserves, forests, government agencies, indigenous knowledge, indigenous species, livelihood, models, nongovernmental organizations, peasantry, public policy, social behavior, trees, villages, Mexico
Mayan community forest reserves (MCFR) play an important role in agricultural landscapes in Mexico, as they provide forest products and a broad variety of benefits that contribute to improving local people's livelihoods. Nevertheless, academia has generally considered conservation and use of forest resources to be incompatible. We describe the spatial configuration of MCFR, evaluate floristic and structural characteristics of woody vegetation present in selected reserves, and identify social norms that govern use and conservation of MCFR. These reserves largely consist of mature vegetation (80% of total cover); their plant structure is similar to that of the surrounding tropical sub-deciduous forest; and they house a large number of endemic species. The MCFR studied contain a total of 146 tree species and cover 11% of the study area, which includes at least 140 villages in the north-central part of the Yucatan Peninsula. These reserves are collectively managed and conserved by Mayan peasants in the interest of the common good. The communities in our study area combine conservation and use of forest resources, and we recommend that in public policy, government agencies and NGOs incorporate MCFR as a model of biological conservation and sustainable natural resource use, taking into account traditional knowledge and local norms that allow these reserves to function in a sustainable manner.