Degradation of ecosystem services and deforestation in landscapes with and without incentive-based forest conservation in the ecuadorian amazon
Anthropogenic activities such as logging or forest conversion into agricultural lands are affecting Ecuadorian Amazon forests. To foster private and communal conservation activities an economic incentive-based conservation program (IFC) called Socio Bosque was established. Existing analyses related to conservation strategies are mainly focused on deforestation; while degradation and the role of IFC to safeguard ecosystem services are still scarce. Further on, there is a lack of landscape-level studies taking into account potential side effects of IFC on different forest types. Therefore we assessed ecosystem services (carbon stocks, timber volume) and species richness in landscapes with and without IFC. Additionally, we evaluated potential side-effects of IFC in adjacent forest types; hypothesizing potential leakage effects of IFC. Finally, we tested if deforestation rates decreased after IFC implementation. Forest inventories were conducted in 72 plots across eight landscapes in the Ecuadorian Central Amazon with and without IFC. Plots were randomly selected within three forest types (old-growth, logged and successional forests). In each plot all individuals with a diameter at breast height greater than 10 cm were measured. Old-growth forests in general showed higher carbon stocks, timber volume and species richness, and no significant differences between old-growth forests in IFC and non-IFC landscapes were found. Logged forests had 32% less above-ground carbon (AGC) and timber volume in comparison to old-growth forests. Surprisingly, logged forests near IFC presented higher AGC stocks than logged forests in non-IFC landscapes, indicating positive side-effects of IFC. Successional forests contain 56% to 64% of AGC, total carbon and timber volume, in comparison to old-growth forests, and 82% to 87% in comparison to logged forests. Therefore, successional forests could play an important role for restoration and should receive more attention in national climate change policies. Finally, after IFC implementation deforestation rate decreased on parish level. Our study presents scientific evidence of IFC contribution to conserving ecosystem services and species richness. In addition IFC could help indirectly to reduce degradation effects attributed to logging, indicating potential compatibility of conservation aims with forest activities at a landscape level.