Session: Vital Connections in Ecology: Novel Collaborations with Community Stakeholders
Landowner perceptions of beneficial forest ecosystem services and forest restoration costs on small parcel farms in rural Sarapiquí, Costa Rica
Monday, August 2, 2021
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Alex C. Gilman, Universidad EARTH, Guacimo, Limon, Costa Rica, Amanda L. Wendt, Universidad EARTH, Guácimo, Limón, Costa Rica; Organization forTropical Studies, San Jose, Costa Rica, Paul F. Foster, Reserva Ecológica Bijagual, Heredia, Costa Rica; Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI, Jossy E. Calvo, Organization for Tropical Studies, San Jose, Costa Rica, Angelica M. Alameyda, Department of Tourism, Recreation & Sport Management, University of Florida, Gainesville and Robin L. Chazdon, Tropical Forests and People Research Centre, University of the Sunshine Coast, Sippy Downs, Australia
Background/Question/Methods In the Sarapiquí region of Costa Rica, and elsewhere, most environmental education has focused on old-growth tropical forest biodiversity and protection despite more abundant second-growth forest in the landscape from restoration efforts and short-term land abandonment. Our objective was to evaluate if targeted educational workshops can change stakeholder perceptions with regards to the value of ecosystem services and benefits provided by different forest types. Surveys were conducted before and after workshops using a structured questionnaire during 2019 and early 2020. A total of 150 landowners accepted. After the initial survey, a subset of landowners with riparian, old-growth, or second-growth habitat on their properties were invited to a series of free educational workshops on topics they requested including: ecosystem services, payments-for-environmental-services programs, agroforestry systems using cacao and vanilla, and forest restoration. Participants who attended at least three workshops were interviewed a second time to evaluate whether their perspectives had changed after the educational interventions. A total of 35 follow-up surveys were completed. Results/Conclusions We compared the pre-workshop initial survey responses to the follow up post-workshops responses. Understanding of the term second-growth forest improved (32% to 89%), and the perceived value of all forest types increased as measured by the quantity of beneficial ecosystem services. The perception of the costs and disadvantages of maintaining forest decreased. Initial survey respondents valued old-growth forest most highly, followed in order by riparian forest, older second-growth forest, forest plantation and finally "charral" (very young second-growth forest that is often cut before it can further regenerate). Post-workshops, old-growth forest remained highly valued while older second-growth forest and "charral" values increased significantly. Values of riparian forest and forest plantations increased slightly. Protection of species, timber and water provision, climate regulation, and tourism were the most frequently identified forest-based ecosystem services. When asked who should be responsible for forest protection, initial survey multiple responses indicated everyone (64%) and the government (30%). Post-workshops, 97% indicated everyone while 14% also included the government. Initial survey responses indicated 95% of participants would act to protect forests; post-workshops respondents were 100% in support. They would act by not contaminating forests with rubbish or agrochemicals (26%), planting trees (16%), not deforesting (15%), taking care of the land (10%), and environmental education (10%). Our data support continued education outreach and forest restoration efforts in the Sarapiquí region, as landowner perceptions of the value of forest habitat, especially second-growth forest, can increase with targeted workshop interventions.