An assessment of forest use value in the northern Peruvian Amazon

Date of Completion

January 2002


Biology, Ecology




Through the use of a six-month participatory tool and a rapid assessment survey this ethnobiological research study produced valuable results covering forest valuation methodology, tropical forest resource use, and conservation priorities for the Cordillera Azul National Park and surrounding communities in the northern Peruvian Amazon. The research aimed to quantify changes in forest use value over a successional continuum from fallow fields to old secondary forests. Suggestions for methodological improvements and future research focus on improved measurements of collection area sizes, the collection of data on all plant types, especially timber species, epiphytes, and herbaceous plants, and the inclusion of animal taxa. This study found only a limited use for a rapid survey approach to forest valuation, but suggested investigations on the potential of a two-stage rapid method. In terms of general resource use, the study found an impressive heterogeneity of use values at inter- and intracommunity levels, between different taxa, and among the three forest types studied. The median values of all secondary forests on private land holdings in the Cordillera Azul (6.80–28.60 $/ha/yr) are at the low end of previous estimates of forest product use values in the tropics. Open-access lands had the highest total value, but the large area they cover means per hectare values were negligible. Forest stands are less valuable than alternative land uses that follow forest clearing. The most valuable use categories were wood and food, and the relative value of the three forest types varied between the three communities surveyed. Based on these results land management suggestions were made regarding swidden-fallow cycles that would maximize composite forest value on family land holdings. The length of time a family resides in a community was the most important predictor of both forest use values and ecological knowledge. Data on the intensity of use and the local value of the most used plant and animal taxa provide baseline data that will inform integrated conservation and development programs aimed at protecting natural resources and ensuring the livelihoods of local people in the Cordillera Azul. ^