The Influences of Local Community Knowledge and Management Styles on Mangrove Forest Health: A Case Study in Northern Senegal
Goldsberry, Ivanna S.
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For my capstone project, I wanted to focus my research on a socio-ecological project which would meld the science and policy knowledge that I gained while matriculating through the Environmental Sciences and Policy program at Johns Hopkins University. I had an opportunity to spend 10-weeks in Senegal, West Africa to conduct research on mangrove forests and interact with local residents to conduct research on how policy decisions influence ecosystem health. Mangrove forests in West-Central Africa provide essential resources to enhance the livelihoods of communities living in close proximity to the forests; however, mangroves are under threat from climate change effects and human impacts. Mangrove forest research in Senegal has historically been concentrated in the south, specifically the Saloum Delta and Casamance regions, with limited research conducted in the northern portion of the country. A close look at mangrove ecosystems in northern Senegal is needed to preserve the forests for local populations and to help mitigate global climate change effects. The objective of this study was to determine if mangrove forest health in northern Senegal is positively influenced by local community knowledge and management practices. Mangrove management styles and policies of three communities in northern Senegal were explored to determine the level of oversight within each mangrove. The knowledge of the local population in each village was assessed via questionnaire to determine how the community viewed the ecosystem services available from their respective mangroves. Additionally, an ecological assessment was completed within each study area to assess the tree health, biodiversity, and soil characteristics of the mangrove forests. The results indicate that the mangrove forest managed by the Senegalese government had the least recent dieback of mangrove trees compared to trees in mangrove forests with no management or managed only by the local community. The results also indicate that management policies like bans on resource extraction, subsidies for local communities, and informal rules-of-use influence the local community’s perception of ecosystem services provided by the mangrove. This study concludes that mangrove management which incorporates local community engagement and traditional ecosystem knowledge positively influences the community’s perception of available ecosystem services which then positively influences the overall health of the mangrove forests. Conducting this research has shown me that socio-ecological research is important and necessary to get communities and policy decision-makers to work together to conserve our natural environments.