Trashing Tragedy of the Commons? Communities Found to Manage Forests Better Than Government

haiti deforestation photo

Deforestation in Haiti, photo: Nick Hobgood via flickr.

It's economic and environmental conventional wisdom that natural resources held in common tend to get over-exploited. But a new study in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, and being highlighted by New Scientist, contends that at least in the case of tropical forests, those owned by local communities have been protected far better than those managed by government: The study, claimed to be the first of its kind, was done by Ashwini Chhatre and Arun Agrawal from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and examined what's happened to 80 forests in 10 countries worldwide over the past 15 years -- only 10% of which were owned by forest communities themselves.

Carbon Storage Higher When Communities Control the Forest
The authors looked at forest ownership data with data on carbon sequestration (estimate from the size and number of trees in a given forest) and found that, in general, tropical forests under local management stored more carbon than government-owned forests.

As for why this is, one reason cited is that with local ownership there is greater incentive to ensure long-term survival of the forest. Agrawal points out that these findings fly in the face of the tragedy of the commons assumption (at least for forests) and that "communities are perfectly capable of managing their resources sustainably."

More: Trade-offs and synergies between carbon storage and livelihood benefits from forest commons

via: New Scientist
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