Evaluating biodiversity within socio-ecological systems to inform community-led management of the African rainforest

African rainforests are among the richest ecosystems in the world, but these complex ecosystems are changing rapidly due to increasing human population growth and associated pressures. A growing proportion of biodiversity is now located in human-modified landscapes and is facing an impending extinction crisis, driven by the loss of habitat and hunting. These drivers are the major threats to wildlife, leading to the extinction of many mammal species. Rural communities involved in local subsistence and commercial hunting as well as land use change are at the centre of successful conservation strategies in such human-dominated landscapes; conservation actors work with these communities to achieve biodiversity conservation through community-led approaches. However, whether such approaches change people’s behaviour is still unclear since studies on this aspect are unexpectedly uncommon, despite their critical importance for the design and evaluation of conservation interventions.
The Nkam and Sanaga-Maritime forest landscape in the Littoral region of Cameroon, recognized as a biodiversity hotspot, but not legally protected, represents an ideal site to understand the current dynamics in Central African forests. In this project, we will use long-term hunting data collected across the southern part of the landscape (commonly recognized as the Ebo forest) over the past 15 years to investigate the spatial and temporal changes in communities’ hunting behaviour and assess how this is affected by the level of conservation interventions in each community. We will associate the results with biodiversity occurrence data to assess the impact this is having on wildlife. Additionally, using an array of camera traps deployed across the forest, we will model wildlife occupancy and abundance to evaluate the impact of hunting on the mammal community and provide scientific evidence to inform sustainable landscape-level land use planning and develop a strategy for result-based evaluation of community-led biodiversity conservation.

This conservation research project is made possible by support from the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance.

Involved researchers
Vianny Rodel Nguimdo Vouffo, Matthias Waltert, Mahmood Soofi, Johannes Kamp