Assessing natural resource use by forest-reliant communities in Madagascar using functional diversity and functional redundancy metrics

Brown, Kerry A., Flynn, Dan F. B., Abram, Nicola K., Ingram, J. Carter, Johnson, Steig E. and Wright, Patricia (2011) Assessing natural resource use by forest-reliant communities in Madagascar using functional diversity and functional redundancy metrics. PloS one, 6(9), e24107. ISSN (online) 1932-6203


Biodiversity plays an integral role in the livelihoods of subsistence-based forest-dwelling communities and as a consequence it is increasingly important to develop quantitative approaches that capture not only changes in taxonomic diversity, but also variation in natural resources and provisioning services. We apply a functional diversity metric originally developed for addressing questions in community ecology to assess utilitarian diversity of 56 forest plots in Madagascar. The use categories for utilitarian plants were determined using expert knowledge and household questionnaires. We used a null model approach to examine the utilitarian (functional) diversity and utilitarian redundancy present within ecological communities. Additionally, variables that might influence fluctuations in utilitarian diversity and redundancy-specifically number of felled trees, number of trails, basal area, canopy height, elevation, distance from village-were analyzed using Generalized Linear Models (GLMs). Eighteen of the 56 plots showed utilitarian diversity values significantly higher than expected. This result indicates that these habitats exhibited a low degree of utilitarian redundancy and were therefore comprised of plants with relatively distinct utilitarian properties. One implication of this finding is that minor losses in species richness may result in reductions in utilitarian diversity and redundancy, which may limit local residents' ability to switch between alternative choices. The GLM analysis showed that the most predictive model included basal area, canopy height and distance from village, which suggests that variation in utilitarian redundancy may be a result of local residents harvesting resources from the protected area. Our approach permits an assessment of the diversity of provisioning services available to local communities, offering unique insights that would not be possible using traditional taxonomic diversity measures. These analyses introduce another tool available to conservation biologists for assessing how future losses in biodiversity will lead to a reduction in natural resources and provisioning services from forests.

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