A multi-country assessment of tropical resource monitoring by local communities.

The rapid global growth of conservation schemes designed to incentivize local communities to conserve natural resources has placed new importance on biological monitoring to assess whether agreements and targets linked to payments are being met. To evaluate competence in natural resource monitoring, we compared data on status and trends collected independently by local-community members and trained scientists for 63 taxa and five types of resource use in 34 tropical forest sites across four countries over 2.5 years. We hypothesized that the results would vary according to differences in the education and value systems of the monitors. We found that, despite considerable differences in countries, cultures, and the types of natural resources monitored, the community members and the scientists produced similar results for the status of and trends in species and natural resources. Our findings highlight the potential value of locally based natural resource monitoring for conservation decisionmaking across developing countries.