Perceptions of ecosystem services provided by tropical forests to local populations in Cameroon. Ecosystem Services 38, 100956. 11p.
In Central Africa, local populations are deeply dependent on tropical forests, which provide numerous ecosystem services (ES). For the first time in Central Africa, we assessed the perceptions of ES provided by tropical forests to local populations, considering three land allocation types: a protected area, a Forest Stewardship Council (FSC)- certified logging concession, and three community forests. We conducted a questionnaire survey with 225 forest stakeholders in southeastern Cameroon, combining an open-ended question and 16 directed questions to evaluate the perceptions of ES significance and abundance, respectively. The ES most frequently reported as significant were provisioning (93% of respondents) and cultural & amenity services (68%), whereas regulating services were less mentioned (16%). Bushmeat provision was the only ES perceived as highly significant but not very abundant. There were slight variations of perceptions among forest land allocation types and respondents, suggesting a relative homogeneity in ES abundance. For further integrative ES assessment, we suggest quantifying ES with complementary ecological and economic approaches, such as meat provision, recreation, tourism, timber provision, spiritual experience, firewood provision, water quality regulation, and inspiration for culture. We also give three concrete recommendations for forest management, the most urgent being to provide sources of protein alternative to bushmeat.