Contrasting perceptions of ecosystem services of an African forest park
Traditionally, conservation programmes assume that local peoples’ support for parks depends on receiving material benefits from foreign exchange, tourism, development and employment. However, in the case of forest parks in Africa, where annual visitation can be small, local support may instead result from ecosystem services. Kibale National Park, a forest park in Uganda, demonstrates that people appreciate parks in ways that are seldom cited nor explored. Public perceptions of benefits accrued from Kibale were explored using two different sampling techniques: a community census and a geographic sample. In both surveys, over 50% of respondents perceived benefits provided by Kibale National Park, and over 90% of those who perceived benefits identified ecosystem services, whereas material benefits were cited less frequently. Multimodel selection on a suite of general linear models for the two different sampling methods provided a comparison of factors influencing perceptions of ecosystem services. Perceptions of Park benefits were influenced by geography, household and respondent characteristics, and perception of negative impacts from the Park. Perceived ecosystem benefits played an important role in the way the Park was viewed and valued locally. Parks have considerable impacts on neighbouring communities, and their long-term political and economic sustainability depends on managing these relationships well. Since local people have the most to gain or lose by conserving neighbouring parks, analyses that incorporate the perceptions of local people are essential to management and sustainability of park landscapes.