WP2: Biodiversity, socioeconomy and ecosystem services


WP2 aims to assess the socio-economic value of the provisioning ecosystem service “use of wild plant species”, its loss through degradation and the related socio-economic consequences for local people in West Africa.  Based on these results products for improved decision making and awareness rising in regard to consequences of degradation for the rural poor were delivered.

All investigations were conducted in the UNDESERT project areas, which are representative for the major vegetation zones covering the Sahel to the South Sudanian zone. In a first step we developed a database to store quantitative ethnobotanical data on socio-economic use values of useful plant species (UseDa). For the assessment of the socio-economic value of plant species we conducted various types of interviews and market studies and documented for a large number of species, their use values, use purposes and their importance for planting activities. For selected highly valued key species more detailed analysis comprising used quantities and their market potentials were documented. For each of these species quantitative data on their socio-economic values are available for practical approaches. The studies on vegetation and species diversity changes, based on species inventories and perceptions of changes by local people, revealed pronounced vegetation changes in all investigated areas, although locally differing patterns became obvious. In one study area the analysis of temporal vegetation and species changes showed decreasing trends for valued species whereas species indicating human disturbance increased. For the selected key species current population status and future trends vary considerably between species and study areas. Some species show a higher abundance in the communal areas than in the protected areas whereas others have higher densities and a more well-balanced population structure inside the protected areas. For other species local people notice even regressive and sharply declining population trends in both areas. This broad variety of vegetation changes and population trends underlines the necessity to conduct extensive assessments at local scales to develop well appropriate and adapted area and site specific management strategies against further degradation and for sustainable use of the species.
For evaluating the socio-economic consequences of species changes we combined the results on the valued species with the assessed species changes. We furthermore analysed the dependency of households on the valued species according to socio-economic household characteristics and the options of local communities to deal with changing species availabilities. In regard to the cross-linking of results on use values and species changes it revealed that most highly valued species are perceived as severely declining in our study areas, and we can conclude that socio-economic consequences are pronounced. Considering the different use categories a decreasing availability of food providing species and fodder species is very likely and will have relevant consequences for these provisioning ecosystem services.

For the investigated key species the degradation of their stands will affect health care, the nutrition situation and even the housing type of local communities. For identifying the most concerned people results show that total income from non-timber forest products (NTFP) is lower in poorer income groups in absolute terms, but their relative NTFP income compared to total household income is higher than in wealthier households. One reason for that is the different access to land and the related NTFP providing trees. These findings indicate that income alternatives to NTFP collection should be envisaged, particularly for the rural poor. In regard to other options we analyzed if and which alternative products can be used instead of the valued species products. It shows that local people are able to potentially counteract current seasonal/temporary NTFP-shortage of important woody species by using a variety of substitutes, which come from a mix of native and exotic woody species, cultivated plants, and other purchasable products. This emphasizes that diversified strategies are necessary to ensure the maintenance of important woody species products in the future. The protection of native woody species, the planting of carefully selected exotic tree species, as well as the supporting of own house garden cultivation / fields should be promoted and seen as complementary measures. For each study area we identified key substitutes, which should be promoted in the future as they serve as surrogates for several woody species. All findings demonstrate that for each region, ethnic- and species-specific differences should be considered when developing adapted management strategies to guarantee the persistence of important NTFP species and to avoid a shortage of their products in the future. In a last step in a cross-cutting activity with WP 5 (DL 5.4) practical planting options with local species were envisaged, which serve at the same time for carbon certification. The investigations revealed that many useful species are of high interest to local communities for planting activities. Thus, a local knowledge based careful selection of tree species for management and conservation can supply local people with products that are highly interesting in terms of local consumption, income generation and food and economic security. All results of this deliverable were transformed into practical baseline information and inserted into the MetaCat dataware house (WP4) and into the decision support system (WP6) for decision support of practitioners.


works to create an improved understanding of the effects of desertification and degradation processes in West Africa and to develop and implement best practices, such as carbon forestry, in close collaboration between scientists and local communities.

Financed by EU-FP7.