Forest Resilience for Livelihoods and Ecosystem Services




Milton, Ashley D.

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Deforestation in the Congo Basin is altering the natural functioning and services of the ecosystem and adversely impacting highly vulnerable human populations who rely on their proper functioning. There is currently no framework that comprehensively addresses the historical and cultural complexities that are persistent in Central African societies and that also include, from a micro scale, the detailed voices of local communities. Without such a holistic framework, it is difficult to evaluate the effectiveness or harmfulness associated with current management strategies in responding to deforestation at the various levels. This transdisciplinary mixed method study determined the most salient indirect and direct causes of forest loss, the impacts resulting from an altered state, and the effectiveness of current management responses by assessing changes in forest cover, forest provisions, and trends in forest management. Because forests are common goods, the elasticity of forests are dependent on a multitude of human activities and attitudes. Therefore, data collected via survey tools were used to evaluate the role of multiple stakeholders in the state of the Congo Forest using the Driver-Pressure-State-Impact- Response (DPSIR) framework, a structured analytical tool created by the European Environmental Agency for better understanding of Integrated Environmental Assessments. To best explore local to international perspectives on the effectiveness of current strategies in sustaining forests for livelihoods and ecosystem services, research methods included conducting remote sensing analysis of Landsat satellite images, interviewing over 325 individuals living in 25 communities in the Lake Télé-Lake Tumba Landscape of northwestern Democratic Republic of Congo and 20 individuals working on forest management, conservation, and funding, and a climate analysis using 40 years of weather data collected from a scientific reserve located within the landscape. Results highlight that local populations are highly environmentally literate and their knowledge is a useful tool for qualifying environmental changes, such as reduced lake health, animal health, and plant health. Remote sensing results show the forest is in a state of decline and climate findings confirm the ecological health of the landscape has been reduced demonstrated by major shifts in the traditional agricultural calendars and the effects are having adverse public health impacts on local communities. The process of this research itself interfaces science and policy and thus recommendations focus on how to make effective payments to communities for supporting alternative livelihoods in order to prevent deforestation while next steps should focus on the implications of forest loss and the promotion of a One Health approach at the landscape level.



Environmental science, Forestry, African studies, Congo Basin, Deforestation, Ecological Health, Lake Tele-Lake Tumba, Livelihoods, Monitoring and Evaluation