ArticlePDF Available

Abstract and Figures

Although official on-the-ground environmental monitoring is absent over much of the world, many people living in these regions observe, manage, and protect their environment. The autonomous monitoring processes associated with these activities are seldom documented and appear poorly recognized by conservation professionals. We identified monitoring activities in three villages in the Mamberamo-Foja region (Mamberamo Regency) of Papua (Indonesian New Guinea). In each village we found evidence that local monitoring contributes to effective protection and deters unregulated exploitation. Although everyone gathers observations and shares information, there are also specific roles. For example, the Ijabait hereditary guardians live at strategic sites where they control access to resource-rich lakes and tributaries along the Tariku River. Often, monitoring is combined with and thus influences other activities: for example, hunting regularly includes areas judged vulnerable to incursions by neighboring communities. We identified various examples of community members intervening to prevent and deter outsiders from exploiting resources within their territories. Enforcement of rules and assessment of resource status also help prevent local overexploitation within the communities. Clearly, local people are effective in protecting large areas in a relatively natural state. We discuss the value of these autonomous monitoring and protection processes, their neglect, and the need for explicit recognition by those concerned about these people and their environments, as well as about conservation. We highlight a potential "tragedy of the unseen sentinels" when effective local protection is undermined not because these local systems are invisible, but because no one recognizes what they see.
Content may be subject to copyright.
Copyright © 2015 by the author(s). Published here under license by the Resilience Alliance.
Sheil, D., M. Boissière, and G. Beaudoin. 2015. Unseen sentinels: local monitoring and control in conservation’s blind spots. Ecology
and Society 20(2): 39.
Unseen sentinels: local monitoring and control in conservation’s blind spots
Douglas Sheil 1,2, Manuel Boissière 2,3 and Guillaume Beaudoin 2
ABSTRACT. Although official on-the-ground environmental monitoring is absent over much of the world, many people living in these
regions observe, manage, and protect their environment. The autonomous monitoring processes associated with these activities are
seldom documented and appear poorly recognized by conservation professionals. We identified monitoring activities in three villages
in the Mamberamo-Foja region (Mamberamo Regency) of Papua (Indonesian New Guinea). In each village we found evidence that
local monitoring contributes to effective protection and deters unregulated exploitation. Although everyone gathers observations and
shares information, there are also specific roles. For example, the Ijabait hereditary guardians live at strategic sites where they control
access to resource-rich lakes and tributaries along the Tariku River. Often, monitoring is combined with and thus influences other
activities: for example, hunting regularly includes areas judged vulnerable to incursions by neighboring communities. We identified
various examples of community members intervening to prevent and deter outsiders from exploiting resources within their territories.
Enforcement of rules and assessment of resource status also help prevent local overexploitation within the communities. Clearly, local
people are effective in protecting large areas in a relatively natural state. We discuss the value of these autonomous monitoring and
protection processes, their neglect, and the need for explicit recognition by those concerned about these people and their environments,
as well as about conservation. We highlight a potential “tragedy of the unseen sentinels” when effective local protection is undermined
not because these local systems are invisible, but because no one recognizes what they see.
Key Words: autonomous monitoring; common property; community conservation; community management; deterrence; Indonesia;
managing the commons; Papua; participatory resource assessment; policing
Official protection of the world’s biodiversity is underfunded and
inadequate (McCarthy et al. 2012, McCreless et al. 2013).
Although 12% of the world’s surface is officially protected (Chape
et al. 2005), much of this area lacks effective management (Bruner
et al. 2001, Brooks et al. 2009). Even well-funded conservation
areas are unable to prevent erosion of their values or to nullify
every threat (e.g., Solomon et al. 2007, Scholte and De Groot
2010, Baker et al. 2012). Furthermore, numerous species,
including many of conservation interest, either occur primarily
outside formal protected areas or require larger areas to ensure
viability (Rodrigues et al. 2004, Ricketts et al. 2005, Brooks et al.
2009). Even when good environmental regulations exist outside
protected areas, enforcement is often inadequate to prevent
unsustainable exploitation and habitat degradation (Contreras-
Hermosilla 2002; Galinato and Galinato 2013). There are also
concerns about the sustainability of conservation measures
imposed on people without their consent or any proper
democratic accountability (Sheil et al. 2013). Although many
conservationists continue to press for the expansion of formal
protected areas, less attention has been paid to some alternatives.
Most regions of the world are inhabited. These inhabitants often
engage in practices that protect the environment from conversion,
degradation, and overexploitation, and contribute to
conservation outcomes (Berkes et al. 2000, Colding and Folke
2001, Vermeulen and Sheil 2007a). Communities control an
estimated total area of relatively wild habitat similar in extent to
that within official protected areas; modified landscapes sustain
additional conservation values (Molnar et al. 2004). So, although
the ability of formal conservation agencies to control, expand,
and improve environmental protection is limited, local people
may to some extent be filling the gap.
Monitoring, i.e., a sustained or intermittent process of assessing
change or threats, is fundamental to environmental stewardship
(Sheil 2001). Effective management means threats and problems
are recognized, evaluated, and addressed, and ideally anyone who
might cause problems is deterred from doing so. We recognize this
monitoring process when official managers gather and respond
to observations and data, but are less explicitly aware of
comparable activities by local people and what they achieve.
However, everyone assesses their environment and what is
occurring in it, and reacts as they judge most appropriate. Thus,
monitoring occurs wherever people are living in, and depending
on, their natural environment.
Autonomous local monitoring, i.e., monitoring that is determined
and maintained without the need for external guidance or
support, has seldom been examined in any detail. Many
researchers, including ourselves, have noted the environmental
trends recognized by local people without necessarily considering
the function, scope, and operational details of how this
recognition is achieved (e.g., Hellier et al. 1999, Lund et al. 2010,
Basuki et al. 2011, Boissière et al. 2013, Padmanaba et al. 2013,
Danielsen et al. 2014a, 2014b). Active oversight is implicit in work
on traditional resource management (Berkes et al. 1998) and in
the context of collaborative or participatory monitoring
(Danielsen et al. 2009). The principle of self-policing is
highlighted in the literature on common property management
(Ostrom 1990, Rustagi et al. 2010), but again the associated
monitoring processes are generally implicit. Furthermore, such
policing and processes have seldom been examined in other
property systems (see Appendix 1 for further elaboration).
We hypothesize that all societies that maintain significant day-to-
day control over their territories and resources also monitor them:
1Department of Ecology and Natural Resource Management, Norwegian University of Life Sciences, 2Center for International Forestry Research,
3Centre de coopération Internationale en Recherche Agronomique pour le Développement
Ecology and Society 20(2): 39
i.e., such practices are a general aspect of how people live when
external controls are weak or absent. This hypothesis implies that
such monitoring processes would once have been near-universal
and may remain commonplace. Beyond this, we want to
understand if these systems remain effective in contributing to
environmental conservation and protection.
Our goal is to highlight the existence and significance of local
monitoring practices, drawing on our own observations in three
communities, Kay, Metaweja, and Yoke, in the Mamberamo-Foja
region, most of which lies within the recently created regency of
Mamberamo Raya of Papua (Indonesian New Guinea,
previously Irian Jaya). This vast region has received little
systematic attention from biological researchers (Marshall and
Beehler 2007, Takeuchi 2009, Normile 2010, van Heist et al. 2010,
Keim 2012, Oliver et al. 2012), but biodiversity values appear high
and local conservation authorities have little oversight (Marshall
and Beehler 2007). In 2009, a total of 143 conservation staff were
responsible for 4,621,596 hectares of officially protected areas
across the entire Province of Papua (with much more in the
process of gaining protected status), as well as various other
conservations tasks (Departmen Kehutanan 2010).
We consider local monitoring with an emphasis on natural
resource management, environmental protection, and conservation.
We describe local monitoring and seek examples of enforcement,
deterrence, and restraint that contribute to maintaining
conservation values. We focus on outcomes: we accept that people
may not hold conventional “conservation motives” (for a wider
discussion, see Smith and Wishnie 2000, Wadley and Colfer 2004,
Vermeulen and Sheil 2007a). Our study region and study topic
have received little attention from researchers in the past; thus,
we provide more context in two appendices. More detailed
information on the three communities, based on our own
observations, interviews, and enquiries, is in Appendix 2. We
provide a brief literature-based discussion of autonomous
monitoring in Appendix 1.
We worked in three communities: Kay, Metaweja, and Yoke, in
the Mamberamo-Foja watershed (Fig. 1). The Mamberamo-Foja
watershed possesses many rare, vulnerable, little-known, and
undescribed species, and is considered to have globally significant
biodiversity values (Richards and Suryadi 2002, Boissière et al.
2006, 2007, Marshall and Beehler 2007, van Heist et al. 2010).
Most of the area is covered by forested mountains and flood
plains, and also contains open wetlands with meandering rivers
and shifting lakes (Fig. 2a, b, c). People are concentrated in
settlements of varying size, allowing river access (Fig. 2d), with
low overall population densities. Official sources report 19,839
people in the 23,813 km² of Mamberamo Raya (RTRW 2009).
Local livelihoods remain highly dependent on wild resources (see
Fig. 3a-g).
Difficult access, malaria, and communities willing to confront
intruders have discouraged settlement and exploitation by
outsiders (Richards and Suryadi 2002, Sheil and and Boissière
2006, van Heist et al. 2010). External threats include mining,
logging, plantation developments, and a proposed hydroelectric
dam (Richards and Suryadi 2002, Marshall and Beehler 2007).
At the time of our survey, Kay was divided into two settlements
on the Tariku River, and people from upstream visited the village
on their way to the settlements of Dabra or Kasonaweja.
Metaweja was more difficult to access because of the steeply
incised terrain. Yoke was on the coast, near the Mamberamo
estuary and easily accessible from Kasonaweja, Sarmi, and
Fig. 1. Map indicating the location of our study, Kay (1
and 2), Metaweja, and Yoke and their relation to
Kasonaweja, and the Mamberamo-Foja Wildlife Reserve
(inset map shows relation to Papua). Note the two main
tributaries to the Mamberamo were known as the
Rouffaer and Idenburg under Dutch rule but are now
named the Tariku and the Taritatu.
Fig. 2. Typical land cover and features in the Mamberamo
region. (a) Foothills of the Foja Mountains (DS); (b) dynamic
flood plains with shifting rivers (MB); (c) mixed forest with
sago palms (DS); (d) typical riverside huts near Kay (MB).
Ecology and Society 20(2): 39
Table 1. The three communities considered in the Mamberamo Watershed (Papua, Indonesia): their populations, territories, ethnicity and
languages, livelihood, livelihood concerns (as stated in focus group discussions), how land and resources are determined, authority, and
relationship with government authorities.
Pop. /
area km²
Ethnicity Language Primary livelihood activities Livelihood
resource and
area control
Sacred sites Land/ resource
ownership/ control
Relationship with
higher authorities
Kwersa &
Gathering wild sago,
cultivating mixed gardens,
fishing, hunting crocodiles,
pigs, cassowaries, NTFP
collection (e.g., matoa,
gnetum, wild guava)
territory to
protect from
Yes, located
By clan Head of village
(gov.), clan
leaders, pastor
Very limited
Kawera Kawera Hunting (pigs, cassowaries,
birds), NTFP collection (e.
g., gnetum, matoa,
breadfruit, mushrooms),
sago cultivation, wild sago,
few mixed crop gardens,
coconut groves
Isolation with
poor access to
Yes, on hill
tops near
the village
By clan Head of village
(gov.), pastor
(same person),
clan leaders (the
main customary
leader resides
Very limited
Paito &
Yoke Fishing, sago cultivation,
collecting wild sago, minor
gardening, minor hunting
of crocodiles, lizards,
cassowaries, NTFP
collection (e.g., clam, crabs,
gnetum, ferns)
Outsiders fishing
without consent
Yes, where
intertsect in
the tidal
Shared (clan
divisions avoided
in near-village
contexts); for sago
groves and garden
areas clan
ownership prevails
Head of village
(gov.); customary
leader, pastor
relationship with
local government
(vice head of
Kabupaten is
from Yoke)
NTFP, Nontimber forest products.
The total area of the three community territories was 3000 square
kilometers (see Table 1). Each territory was further subdivided by
clans. All three territories overlapped the 2,000,000-hectare
Mamberamo-Foja Wildlife Reserve (an official status that prohibits
human settlement or exploitation, although this has not been
enforced). This reserve was declared in 1982 without local
consultation and is officially “controlled” by the Balai Besar
Konservasi Sumber Daya Alam (BBKSDA; Natural Resource
Conservation Agency). The reserve was unstaffed and seldom
visited by BBKSDA staff. We are aware of only three visits and two
were because of the participation of BBKSDA in our study; the
other was a check on crocodile hunters (BBKSDA staff, personal
communication; authors, personal observation). Despite the overlap
with their territories, communities were unaware of the protected
area until 2005 and have maintained their own claims, customs, and
rules governing these areas. Within these territories only particular
people have rights to engage in, or to permit, certain activities in
specific areas; in sacred areas any human presence is discouraged
by taboos and/or prohibitions.
Selected community characteristics are summarized in Table 1,
including population, territory size, ethnicity and languages,
livelihood activities, livelihood concerns, sacred sites, ownership and
controls over land and resources, community authorities, and
relationship with government authorities at the time of our study
(2006 to 2013). Additional information is in Appendix 2.
Approach and methods
We built trust through our activities over several years. Activities
included (1) mapping local and customary needs, perceptions, and
practices; (2) an examination of community resilience to climatic
variation and change; (3) an examination of the context for
participation in Measuring, Reporting and Verifying carbon stocks
and related activities; and (4) this study. We selected our three
communities based on the opportunity provided by our field work
plans and to represent a range of distinct locations and lifestyles
(coastal, riverside, far upstream). More detail on these activities and
methods can be found in various reports and publications, such as
Boissière et al. (2007). Boissière et al. (2006; in Indonesian) provide
details of our initial work concerning local perceptions and
preferences about landscapes and natural resources, based on
methods described in Sheil et al. (2002). Padmanaba et al. (2012)
describe the process of participatory land planning. Boissière et al.
(2013) describe our assessment of community views regarding
climate variability.
Our team members included male and female interviewers. We also
included staff from local government agencies (the Forestry
Department and Badan Perencana Pembangunan Daerah, the
regional body for planning and development). In each community
we started with meetings where we presented our reasons for being
there, what we hoped to achieve, how we hoped we could work
together, and what we could and could not offer. We answered
questions, sought permission for the activities, and asked for
Ecology and Society 20(2): 39
Table 2. Local monitoring observed in the Mamberamo Watershed (Papua, Indonesia) by community, including goals, activities, and how
monitoring is undertaken. In each village we identified distinct processes (numbers) that themselves may address more than one issue or be
used in more than one way (numbers subdivided by letter).
Community and
area’s official
Goals Activities Who is involved? Organization,
leadership, institutions
Data and how it
leads to decisions
Frequency and response
Part of the
territory within
protected area
and part in
1 Control access
to lakes (fish,
crocodiles, and
other resources).
1 Families settle at locations with
good visibility (also convenient for
their own resources access).
1 Hereditary/voluntary but
approved and overseen by male
clan elders.
1 Observations of who is doing
what and where. Also attention to
status of local resources.
1 Observations are near continuous.
This is an effective deterrent. Any
major breach of the territory could
escalate to fines and/or
2 Control
movements along
the main river and
access to
(crocodiles, fishes,
2a Families stay for several days on
small alluvial river islands with
good visibility onto the river. They
make gardens and fish.
2b All villagers will report or
challenge any unauthorized visitors
they see.
2a Voluntary but approved and
overseen by male clan elders. Tends
to be determined by wish to hunt
or fish near these islands. These
gardens generally belong to
families (not clan level).
2b Report to clan elders and to
village head.
2 Observations of who is doing
what and where are directly shared
in the village and decisions are
made by clan leaders.
2 Observations are ad-hoc but
widespread. People caught are fined
by villagers; no report is made at the
district or regency levels. Outsiders
who fish or hunt crocodiles without
prior authorization from clan
leaders are fined by the customary
leaders and head of village.
3 Determine
status of aquatic
resources to avoid
3a Fish resources are assessed
based on net catches (similar to
Yoke but appears more casual and
ad-hoc in nature).
3b Crocodile numbers, sizes, and
breeding status are assessed in two
main approaches:
(i) During the dry season, by
observing crocodiles and their
tracks (associated with nesting [egg
laying] on the river banks).
(ii) Hunters use torches at night to
spot crocodiles. This is efficient as
eyes are reflective and the stronger
the reflection the larger the
3 Fishers and hunters assess where
the resource is most readily
available and avoid areas where
more effort will be required.
3 Assessments are based on local
experience and judgement.
Information is shared and
discussed to build general
awareness, which helps track and
judge options (where to access,
what and where to avoid).
Restraints and controls will be
discussed by clan leaders and local
owners if depletion becomes a
3 Observations are near continuous
but widely scattered. When
resources decline, controls or
prohibition on extraction may be
agreed and imposed by local owners
and clan leaders. Access channels
may be barricaded with logs. Less
formal mechanisms, suggesting
where to extract resources and
where to rest, are generally
Visitors from neighboring villages or
other outsiders coming from the
highlands come and go several times
each month and if and where they
are granted permission to fish or
hunt is closely guided by feedback
from community resource users.
Territory lies
within protected
1 Control access
to territory and
1 Huts and semipermanent camps
owned by particular families are
strategically located at borders with
neighboring villages. They include
gardens and sago stands around
the camp (stays may be 1 day to 1
month, stated goals include
hunting, sago cultivation or
harvest, camp maintenance).
1 Individuals or groups (mostly
young men, but sometimes women
and families) volunteer from local
clan. Specific people have
knowledge of specific locations
and assume local responsibility.
Information is widely shared and
discussed within the village.
Problems or events would be
reported and discussed with clan
leaders and village head.
1 Those active in area are seen,
heard, or indirectly detected (foot
prints, camps, etc.).
Anyone will immediately challenge
intruders directly, ask their intent
(they may confiscate their catch).
Rarely they might expel an intruder
or confiscate a boat.
Visitors and outsiders can ask
permission for activities from clan
1 Activities are irregular but
frequent. Consequences depend on
who is seen doing what. There is
some flexibility in the
implementation of village
regulations depending on the
incursion and who is implicated and
their relationships and history.
Neighboring villages visit several
times each month.
2a Resource
2b Resource
2 During hunting, food gathering,
and other activities villagers gather
direct observations and signs of (a)
people’s activities and intrusions
(b) valued species and resources.
2 Everyone is active within the
larger territory either in groups or
2a Signs of people’s activities may
be carefully scrutinized and
intruders may be intercepted.
Actions will be taken according to
the scale of problems identified. In
principle the entire community may
act together.
2b Abundance assessments from
hunting effort and yield. General
status of animals and plants are
gathered through familiarity of
signs, of success while hunting and
gathering. All these factors are
discussed by the hunters.
2a Action can be taken at short
2b Resource availability and status is
discussed on a near daily basis and
areas are accessed or avoided
accordingly. Formal interventions
have seldom been invoked though
informants noted that fish poison
had been banned because of a
decline in fish, but we heard that
people still use it and it is a cause of
conflict. There is a similar
discussion about fine meshed nylon
Territory lies
within protected
1 Control access
to territory and
resources (fishes,
crabs, shells, etc.).
1a Village strategically located. All
villagers may see and challenge
visitors. This is a deterrent.
1b One family lives on Lake
Tabaresia (a mangrove system).
They observe and help control who
uses this lake.
1 Resources must be gained
through the villagers: generally a
price will be agreed and the
villagers collect the resource for the
Villagers take direct action or
report to the clan leaders and the
village secretary (government
representative present in the
village) when an outsider is
1 Information of outsiders and
their movements and activities.
Intercept and take action against
Observations shared in the village
and decisions made by leaders and
head of village.
1 Observations are near continuous.
Coordinated actions based on
information received: perpetrators
may be required to pay fine.
1a Neighboring villages visit every
week and outsiders ask permission
perhaps once a year. Larger boats
have been challenged several times
in recent decades.
Ecology and Society 20(2): 39
2 Assess resource
2 Resources are assessed based on
catches (abundance, size, quality)
and effort required by location.
2 All villagers involved (women are
specialized in crab collection).
Assessments are based on
experience and judgement.
Information is shared and
discussed to build general
awareness of resource status.
2 General awareness guides
extraction options (what to access
and where). The need for restraints
and controls can be discussed by
village leaders and local owners.
Typically, however, they just focus
on gathering what they need where
it is most readily available.
2 Daily assessments and
discussions. When resources
are seen to be declining
controls or prohibition on
extraction could be agreed
and imposed by local owners
and other leaders. But such
processes have not been
needed in many years.
Apparently resources are
more than adequate for the
informants to help inform our research. The information used in
this study was derived from field visits, interviews, discussions,
and participatory exercises (Fig. 4a-d). Initial work helped
generate engagement and build trust (Boissière et al. 2006, 2007).
Additional visits to the region occurred over five years in
conjunction with other projects, allowing some communities to
be visited multiple times. We also met villagers from the different
communities when we visited Kasonaweja, which we did regularly.
That provided an update on what was going on in relationships
with outsiders and other villages, and in implementing land use
planning. These meetings were also a chance to check details.
Fig. 3. Selected livelihood activities based on natural resources.
(a) Hunter carries a pig back to the village (Metaweja, GB); (b)
fishermen catch various aquatic creatures, here a freshwater
soft-shelled turtle, likely Pelochelys signifera (hunter’s face
obscured by authors to protect identity, MB); (c) fishing with
harpoons (Yoke, MB); (d) young crocodile, Crocodylus
novaeguineae or Crocodylus porosus, caught in fishing nets
(Kay, MB); (e) fish are cooked and dried/smoked (Kay, DS); (f)
the main starch in people’s diets is derived from the processing
of wild and planted sago (Metaweja, MB); (g) large timber trees
are locally plentiful on drier land and are processed for
constructing local buildings (Kay, DS).
Activities included participatory mapping with four selected
groups (young men, old men, young women, and old women) and
joint exercises to identify and clarify the local importance and
significance of categories and types of land cover and location,
and the importance and significance of different species (Sheil et
al. 2002, Sheil and Liswanti 2006). In each exercise we involved
groups of male and female informants. Our field teams included
female interviewers who engaged the women. After the maps had
been drafted and checked by community members and field visits,
they were finalized, printed on plasticized paper, and returned to
each community.
Fig. 4. Methods used to engage community members regarding
the examples in this study. (a) Field visits with informants (Kay,
DS); (b) focus group discussion around the results of the initial
participatory mapping with a group of women (Metaweja, GB);
(c) discussing locations on participatory map with men (Yoke,
MB); (d) hunters scoring the frequency of visits to the
community boundary (Metaweja, GB).
Ecology and Society 20(2): 39
In Yoke and Metaweja we used dedicated group discussion (same
number and arrangement as participatory mapping) on local
monitoring of resources, territory, and borders. In the three
communities, we surveyed and interviewed 83 heads of
households as part of household surveys and conducted an
additional formal 60 interviews covering topics such as village
institutions; rules, norms, and traditional rules; local land use and
natural resources management; sacred places; relationships with
external authorities; history; land use; and trade, products, and
resources. Many field visits were undertaken, and there were many
less formal discussions during the course of the studies that also
identified or clarified relevant issues and examples. We visited
field camps, gardens, sacred sites, and the area controlled by one
Ijabait close to Kay. In Yoke we visited the base of the lake
guardian. We also conducted specific group exercises to identify,
discuss, and characterize monitoring activities in Yoke and
Most of the initial identification of monitoring and guarding
activities arose from the participatory mapping and focus group
discussions on the importance of forest and forest products, and
on the rules about access and use. Much of the further clarification
derived from informal discussions with individuals and small
groups during visits to specific locations as part of our program
of field checking the various participatory maps in all three
communities. These field checks, when done by boat, generally
involved researchers traveling with at least three local people, two
to manage the boat and one elder with local expertise and
authority. When done on land, the researchers generally worked
with at least two or more local people who knew the area, although
these numbers were sometimes much larger. For example, in
Metaweja entire families joined some trips because it was an
opportunity to visit remote hunting areas and gardens (and keep
an eye on the researchers). The group exercises were required to
map and explore the typical frequency of monitoring activities.
Informants were repeatedly reminded that the research results
would be shared with an outside audience and were invited to
voice any concerns. If concerns remained after further discussion,
we subsequently respected them. Thus, we do not talk about
specific locations of high-value products. We worked in
Indonesian using local translators when necessary. Most
information was derived from multiple sources and cross-
checked; for confidentiality and brevity, we shall not cite these
sources for every statement. We identified and clarified various
examples within each community that involve monitoring and
control over resources. In each community we sought to find and
elaborate specific examples showing effective responses to
external and internal threats.
Those seeking to replicate our study would not need to conduct
all the activities we did because we had multiple goals. However,
they would need to invest the time required to build trust. We
spent a lot of time, especially in the first few days in each
community, explaining what we were doing and answering
questions. Effort is also needed to develop effective
communication. For example, the jointly made maps provided a
shared basis for talking about places and associated activities, and
we also spent a lot of time talking about types of places, roles,
norms, rules, and resources, so as to develop an understanding of
the basic labels used and what they imply. Observing what people
are doing also has value—how they spend their time and
understanding the rules about visiting different sites and accessing
different resources by actually seeing the locations, resources, and
practices in question. A lot of repetition and cross-checking were
necessary. Rapid surveys would likely fail because they would lack
trust and the time needed to build a credible understanding among
the local people.
We also conducted a literature search for examples of people
monitoring and policing the environment by and for themselves.
Specifically we sought examples of monitoring in the tropics
where design, implementation, and use of the monitoring are
achieved autonomously by local people as part of a long-
established process of land and/or resource management. This is
close to the category of “autonomous local monitoring”
described in Danielsen et al.’s (2009) typology of participatory
monitoring (see also Danielsen et al. 2014b). We used the terms
“indigenous monitoring,” “traditional monitoring,” “community
monitoring,” “autonomous monitoring,” “indigenous guarding,”
and “traditional guarding” in the ISI Web of Science database
( The
results and additional literature are discussed in Appendix 1.
In each village we found both threat monitoring and resource
monitoring (summaries in Table 2 and Fig. 5a-f). Here, we expand
on selected examples from each of the three communities.
At nine locations within the territory overseen by Kay, an Ijabait
resides (see Fig. 5c as an example). An Ijabait is a patrilineal
hereditary guardian whose primary role is to control local access
for the clan that owns the territory. All nine locations provide
strategic oversight of river access to resource-rich areas. Two sites
are ox-bow lakes (Fig. 5e) and seven are tributaries to the main
river, with abundant crocodiles, sago, and fish, and good dry
season hunting for pigs and cassowaries. Some Ijabait control
multiple locations in one vicinity and move among them. We were
told that Ijabait seldom leave their area of responsibility, and hunt
and fish locally to provide for their wife and children who live
with them; other family members bring anything required from
The Ijabaits are respected and act as a powerful deterrent: we
heard of no incidents of anyone trying to slip by unnoticed. Those
we visited owned hunting dogs, which further increased the chance
of detecting and catching intruders. Anyone entering the
restricted territory would be intercepted. We were told that anyone
caught with products would be punished (likely fined), although
our informants remembered no specific incursions, either by
outsiders or community members, despite the rich resources
available. Our informants commented that such guarding
activities were not restricted to Kay but were present in
communities all along the Tariku River, where most channels and
lakes were guarded.
Local lakes were, in general, connected to the main river only by
narrow channels that may, we were told, occasionally be
barricaded purposely with tree trunks to impede access. We never
saw such blocks, but this practice would be used where the Ijabait
was not located near the specific access point. Generally any such
bans would be known and respected within the community: they
would in principle also be enforced, although no one could recall
any examples of this being necessary.
Ecology and Society 20(2): 39
Fig. 5. Contexts and activities associated with autonomous
monitoring. (a) Settlements are strategically located and look
out over the most valued fishing grounds (Yoke, MB); (b)
regular camping sites include huts and gardens, here on the
village territory boundary (Metaweja, MB); (c) the home of an
Ijabait hereditary guardian by the Tariku (Rouffaer) River
(Kay, DS); (d) anyone accessing these flood plain territories
leaves visible tracks in the soft substrate (a tributary of the
Tariku near Kay, DS); (e) accessing the resource-rich lakes is
easiest via specific channels that can be closely monitored (Kay,
DS); (f) monitoring of crocodiles is easiest using strong torch
light at night. This is a method that people have adopted from a
Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
team that assessed crocodile populations in the 1980s (Kay,
Status assessments were seen as a key determinant of the choice
to harvest or protect resources. An interesting example is hunting
crocodiles (Crocodylus novaeguineae and Crocodylus porosus);
these were among the most important resources at Kay until
recently and hunted primarily for their valued skin, with the flesh
used as food. Only people from Kay had any right to hunt
crocodiles; outsiders were never permitted. In the past animal
stocks had been assessed from experience and accumulated
observations, but in recent years animal numbers and sizes were
assessed at night using hand-held spotlights (Fig. 5f). Harvesting
was then stopped or reduced in any area where crocodile numbers
appeared low. This judgment was made directly by those involved
in the survey; there were no additional analyses.
The spotlight method originated from a Food and Agriculture
Organization of the United Nations (FAO) team that conducted
crocodile surveys in the 1980s (Frazier 1988). In each territory the
FAO team explained the activity, asked permission, and was then
accompanied by local clan representatives as they assessed the
crocodiles. Interestingly this FAO project had also suggested that
crocodile harvesting for both species be regulated by size (animals
of 28-56 cm being “commercial belly width”) to maintain a good
breeding population (Frazier 1988, Cox 1992). Although initially
viewed as interference, these regulations were subsequently
adopted as part of Kay’s code of rules and norms. Other
communities in the region, such as Kwerba and Papasena, also
adopted and adapted these methods and guidelines for managing
crocodile harvesting (DS and MB, personal observation).
Territorial protection was a shared responsibility in Metaweja.
Some households maintained huts or camped regularly at
strategic locations near their territory boundaries. Attention was
focused on boundaries with mistrusted communities. Metaweja’s
men reported the frequency of their visits to different portions of
their territorial boundary (Fig. 4d). In total, around 50 km of the
approximately 80-km territorial boundary were regularly visited.
Frequency increased according to both accessibility and level of
distrust with the neighboring community (see Fig. 6). Such
distrust was explained by past conflicts. For instance, several
decades ago, likely before the mid-1950s when missionaries ended
such activities, one woman from Surumaja Gunung was said to
have been “stolen” to marry an elder of Metaweja’s clan, which
started a long-running conflict between Metaweja and Surumaja
Gunung. The border between these territories is more than 10 km
long but is close, accessible, and regularly visited, sometimes
several times a week. Many gardens and sago groves have been
established near this strategic border (Fig. 5b).
In 1994, hunters from the neighbouring Surumaja Gunung
community were intercepted while collecting birds of paradise in
the Opiye Mountains, in Metaweja territory. These birds are
generally shot with air rifles and preserved by drying; a dried bird,
in good condition, could be sold to traders for around 1 million
IDR (around US$110) and a living bird could bring as much as
5 million IDR (US$550). Immediate fines were demanded, a
minor struggle ensued, and the hunters escaped without injuries.
However, the hunters were recognized, and when the customary
leader learned about the incident, he sent a message to the other
village naming the intruders. In 2006, another group from
Surumaja Gunung was captured in Metaweja territory. A fine of
500,000 IDR per bird (US$55) was demanded by the customary
leader; the hunters lacked money and were allowed to leave
without the birds. The fine was never paid, and no collectors have
The 12 young and old male respondents in one focus group
discussion claimed to know when a resource or species became
scarce or degraded, and indicated that they typically take action
by not collecting that resource or species until it recovered; this
could be either a personal or a group decision depending on
context. More subtle information also influenced such decisions.
For example, a wild pig (Sus scrofa) was typically killed every few
days: details of the location including the patterns of prints,
wallows, nests, leaches, and other signs were examined and
reviewed, as was the ease of the hunt and the animal’s condition.
These details were discussed among all the hunters. Nothing is
Ecology and Society 20(2): 39
written or recorded, but hunters remember and readily recall
significant details and their interpretation. Based on such
observations, less productive areas would be rested until the next
rainy season. Typically areas are identified in relation to specific
streams, rivers, or hills and appear to involve several tens of square
kilometers. Such choices improve hunting success and also aid
recovery. Discussion with the community indicated that less than
one-third of the territory is regularly used for hunting (Fig. 6).
Fig. 6. Map of Metaweja territory showing areas regularly
visited for hunting and highlighting the relative frequency per
year of boundary visits, based on scoring by the hunters
involved (Metaweja men). Rivers and relief are based on terrain
data, but boundaries and areas visited are based on hand-
drawn information.
Sanctions were applied to anyone failing to respect controls and
the associated norms. For example, the village headman in
Metaweja told us that if anyone in the community took too many
birds of paradise, they would be asked to stop. If they refused,
they could be reported to district officials by radio. This formal
control option had never yet been used but is a recognized
deterrent primarily because of the implied public shaming.
Several informants noted that fish had been depleted in local rivers
because of the use of fine-meshed nylon nets and excessive use of
fish poison. Our informants noted that the community had agreed
to ban poison, although some people were known to be flouting
the ban and continuing to deplete the rivers. Indeed, this seemed
to have caused some resentment and animosity. Stronger
measures had yet to be taken, although some felt these were
needed (MB, informal discussions with community members). Slow
progress likely reflects the day-to-day absence of a traditional
leader and the fact that fishing was always a minor activity (local
rivers are narrow and shallow). It also reflects steady pressure
within the community to address such new problems at a pace
that balances their severity against a preference to avoid conflict.
Many of Yoke’s most valued fishing areas were directly visible
from the village (Fig. 5a). One exception was Lake Tabaresia,
where one family lives at a strategically selected location
overseeing this lake in a role similar to Kay’s Ijabaits.
In 2003, a boat from the Bintang Emas company was seen fishing
within the village territory and asked to leave; when the crew
refused, claiming bad weather, the villagers seized the boat and
held it for several days until a company representative arrived. In
the meantime the crew was fed and housed in the village. The
company representative negotiated with the then village head, and
the boat and crew were released. We remain unsure if a fine was
paid because apparently this information was never shared with
the rest of the community.
The community intercepted another commercial fishing boat in
2011 and warned it to leave. It did.
All villagers collected various resources. The muddy terrain in
much of this territory and the necessity of boat access meant
tracks were created to access land (Fig. 5d). These tracks were
“read” by the villagers, who interpreted what had happened and
who was involved. Inappropriate activities were thus hard to
conceal. Furthermore, everyone was familiar with resource
conditions in the locations they frequented, and community
experiences were widely discussed in an informal manner.
Collection, fishing, and hunting focused on areas where resources
were easily gained. If a resource appeared to be deteriorating,
villagers would naturally avoid the areas involved or switch to
other resources. We were told that informal processes had been
sufficient to manage use and maintain resources, but the
community recognized the potential to agree to more formal
controls that the whole community would then enforce if needed.
When we sought specific examples of such restraint, informants
insisted repeatedly that there was no shortage of important
resources. For example, wild vegetables, trees used for timber, fish,
shellfish, and crabs were still abundant, and people took only what
they needed, so the community had never needed to impose any
restraints (trade with outsiders remained negligible). When
pushed, one group of older men reported that some aquatic
species had become harder to find in specific locations, but there
was little concern because they remained plentiful elsewhere.
These included crocodiles, sharks, turtles, “bandeng” fish (likely
Chanos sp.), and “bubara” fish (likely Caranx sp.). Exploring these
examples indicated that some of these trends were very local; e.
g., the decline in fish abundance was blamed on the dirty water
near the village rather than overfishing.
We predicted that established societies in a remote region of Papua
(Indonesian New Guinea) would monitor and control their
territories and resources. We confirmed this with examples of
both territory control and resource assessment in each of the three
communities (an area of 3000 km²). We and our colleagues have
worked with communities in Indonesia and elsewhere, and based
Ecology and Society 20(2): 39
on various unpublished observations, we believe similar practices
occur in most of them. This implies that autonomous monitoring
is both widespread and recognizable. For example, previous
collaborations with two other Mamberamo communities, Kwerba
and Papasena, showed that these communities actively prevented
access to the Foja Mountains, although they were willing to grant
permission to and support researchers once trust had been earned
(Sheil and and Boissière 2006).
Our investigations in three communities show that autonomous
monitoring is an integral part of people’s lives, livelihoods, and
cultures. Autonomous monitoring practices can be focused and
general simultaneously. Here, we acknowledge these intrinsic
values and their local significance but take a conservation-centric
perspective to highlight some wider implications. Specifically we
consider researchers’ neglect of autonomous monitoring and the
implications of improved recognition.
Effectiveness and why autonomous monitoring matters
Monitoring has emerged as a major theme in resource
management and conservation (Sheil 2001, Stem et al. 2005,
Gardner 2012). Management must recognize and respond to an
ever-changing context. However, monitoring has often become
separated from response, with data collection becoming an end
in itself (Sheil 2001, Nichols and Williams 2006). In the
communities in Papua we see that observation and the potential
to respond are closely linked. Virtually all able members of each
village, especially the men, are familiar with large regions of the
territory. They understand access routes, know the best places to
hunt or to camp, and are skilled in assessing their environment
and detecting and interpreting signs. These abilities are honed by
regular use. People recognize and respond to threats everywhere.
Efforts focus on strategic locations, although people also move
over large areas and are alert to potential problems.
Autonomous monitoring practices likely play a key role in
community resilience and adaptive capacity (in the sense of Miller
et al. 2010 and Engle 2011). The ability to recognize and follow
up rapidly on anything that attracts attention generates
considerable robustness and flexibility, and provides a good basis
for learning. The systems will change but as long as people’s lives
and livelihoods depend on the wider landscapes they inhabit, they
are likely to remain intimately engaged with observing and
actively protecting it.
Autonomous monitoring processes have limitations. The capacity
to identify, deter, or address threats is context dependent.
Although our examples suggest restraint is often effective in
protecting resources from overharvesting, local problems do arise,
such as the depleted fish stocks in Metaweja that had not recovered
despite a ban on using fish poison. It appears that inadequate
enforcement and/or new fishing methods such as fine mesh nylon
nets prevented recovery. Nonetheless, given the discontent voiced
by our informants, it seems likely that community disapproval
and enforcement will escalate until the problem is addressed.
However, local people cannot identify or address all threats. For
example, local people may not know about a regional dam project
that will flood their territory or the potential effects of an invasive
alien species. Remote communities lack the power required to
influence many key decisions that affect them. It is hard to see
how Australia’s marginalized aboriginal people (discussed in
Appendix 1) could have prevented nuclear weapons tests in their
territory even if they had known about it (Cane 2002). More
typical examples are the timber concessions, mines, and
plantations that are often imposed in remote frontier regions
without the informed consent of the local people (Robertson-
Snape 1999). Negligence, disrespect, opportunism, and deception
are symptoms of this power imbalance.
One of us (MB) was working in another Mamberamo community,
Kasonaweja, when a clan leader pointed to a new mud road
through the forest as part of a new logging concession for the
company PT Mamberamo Alas Mandiri, previously known as
Kodeko. The leader commented, “This part of our territory is
sacred. The company should not encroach. We told them and they
agreed. But they encroached anyway. We complained and blocked
the road for a while but in the end what else can we do?” We suspect
the company may ultimately regret their error. Even where power
imbalances appear insurmountable, the victim finds smaller, or
sometimes larger, ways to exact justice. This local justice is likely
more widespread and costly than generally recognized because
those involved are already near invisible to authorities and may
actively conceal their actions (Scott 1985).
Although local people are often at a disadvantage against
powerful external forces, this is not always the case. At the end of
the last century, a couple of years after Indonesia’s Suharto regime
had ended, companies took advantage of the perceived power
vacuum in remote regions. In the territory of Langap Village in
Malinau in East Kalimantan, a company began to cut timber
within 1 km of a series of caves where locals collected the nests
of swiftlets (Aerodramus spp.) to sell for bird nest soup and other
delicacies. The logging broke previously established agreements.
The villagers took the law into their own hands and forcibly
confiscated the company’s vehicles and heavy machinery, refusing
to return them until a fine was paid. This cost the company revenue
and authority, and acted as a deterrent to other companies in the
region (DS, personal observation and various discussions with
villagers and local officials). Such incidents may be relatively
common: for example, the community of Bau Baru in West
Kalimantan was upset by an oil palm company’s broken
commitments. After various protests, villagers finally drove
company machinery into a swamp, thus finally gaining the
company’s attention to their grievances (Colfer 2001). Such acts
target perceived injustices and are double-edged for conservation:
both threats to conservation values and conservation itself can
trigger resistance if judged illegitimate by the people affected.
Alienation of local people increases the burden on conservation
authorities. When protected areas are declared, local people may
lose their role as stewards and much of their incentive for caring
about sustained resource use. They may even automatically
become “illegal” users if they persist with established practices.
Defenders may thus be transformed into a perceived menace
(Sheil and Boissière 2006). Such alienation can intensify threats
to biodiversity and increase conservation costs (Sheil et al. 2013).
Estrangement and even hostility often result (e.g., Sharpe 1998,
Boissière et al. 2009, Baker et al. 2012). Such outcomes appear
tragic and ironic when adversaries had previously shared similar
goals: to safeguard the environment and its resources from
uncontrolled use.
Ecology and Society 20(2): 39
Recognition of local monitoring is part of our vision to recognize
and support locally conceived conservation (Sheil and Boissière
2006, Sheil et al. 2006, Boissière et al. 2007, 2010, Sassen and Jum
2007, Vermeulen and Sheil 2007b). Conservation that proceeds
with local community support has a more ethical foundation for
addressing long-term threats. It is also likely to be more
sustainable and less costly.
Recognizing how some communities actively protect nature may
counterbalance the scepticism that projects seeking to re-establish
such local control have often engendered (Blaikie 2006, Larson
and Soto 2008, Cox et al. 2010). Such positive examples provide
both technical guidance and inspiration, as highlighted by the
experience in Pacific Island fisheries (Johannes 2002).
Autonomous monitoring involves various activities undertaken
by different people for many reasons. However, without sufficient
recognition, the benefits can be lost to ill-conceived interventions
that take a uniform approach and leave insufficient opportunity
for local norms and practices to be maintained, as observed in
many traditional fisheries in Canada and New Zealand (Turner
et al. 2013).
Why have they been overlooked?
Our discussions with colleagues suggest widespread recognition
that communities oversee, manage, and protect natural resources
in many ways. However, our examination of the literature shows
limited formal attention to the degree to which people monitor
their environment to protect it. For many the presence of local
monitoring is implicit, as in much common property research
(Ostrom et al. 1999, Pagdee et al. 2006, Chhatre and Agrawal
2008, Rustagi et al. 2010). Why has more explicit characterization
not been attempted?
The lack of attention from conservation professionals and
biological scientists, as with other issues of local collaboration,
likely reflects disciplinary obstacles related to awareness,
credibility, training, rewards, and communication (Sheil and
Lawrence 2004). However, many aspects of these autonomous
monitoring practices also appear relatively inaccessible to
research. For example, consider the age and history of these
practices. Most have developed, we assume, over many
generations, but we have no way to evaluate this or to assess
changes beyond recent decades. Setting aside possible, if unlikely,
archaeological insights and detailed reports from earlier travels
by outsiders, it is only through a recent innovation, e.g.,
spotlighting crocodiles, that we can gain a specific insight.
Autonomous monitoring systems are also challenging to describe
and characterize. They tend to be integrated with other activities
and other goals. Resource maintenance and protection are not
necessarily the sole or primary motives. For example, sacred sites
are controlled for intangible reasons. Where to monitor is
influenced by distrust and past conflict with neighboring
communities. Much information gathered about resource status
depends on day-to-day activities (e.g., LaRochelle and Berkes
2003). Key aspects are often informal and may operate most
effectively where they are most invisible, e.g., in the least accessible
places. Shame, with transgressors labeled cheats or incompetents,
likely plays a role, but such controls are not readily seen by, or
shared with, researchers.
As in many such cross-cultural contexts, researchers and local
people may fail in multiple ways to communicate effectively (Sheil
and Wunder 2002, Sheil and Lawrence 2004). Our own field
experiences revealed various practical challenges in gathering
reliable information. Building the necessary trust and ease of
communication takes time. Communication can be challenging
when discussing abstract concepts and motivations, and
information can be contradictory and hard to verify. Candor is
not assured. In our own studies, conflicting information generally
highlighted uncertainties or misunderstandings rather than wilful
efforts to mislead, but even the most cooperative informants may
proffer clear information to keep researchers happy rather than
admit uncertainties. Cross-validation and repeated checking are
A related and, in our experience, more common challenge occurs
when informants claim ignorance and inability to help.
Sometimes, this is simply shyness and lack of confidence in talking
to outsiders; sometimes, they may fear saying something they will
regret. Because of their often more limited access to schools,
reduced knowledge of Indonesian, and cultural norms, female
informants were often less at ease sharing information, including
with female researchers. However, in each community they clearly
possessed relevant roles, experience, and expertise for their day-
to-day practices relating to sites, values, and resources (e.g., the
collection of crabs and clams/shells in Yoke). There are no easy
solutions. Even if communication obstacles are overcome, the
observations gathered by the communities in Papua are hard to
assess directly, as with much indigenous knowledge (Agrawal
1995) and even much participatory monitoring (Staddon et al.
2014). The observations are not written. Quantities, when used,
are judged rather than measured (such judgments can be highly
skilled). The quality and value of such observations depend on
context, purpose, and who is making the judgment, and adequacy
is demonstrated by the management system’s overall
The activities, too, may be difficult to access and characterize.
Community members may not wish to explain how and why they
check on each other. Such interpersonal politics are hard to
explore given the vested interests, conflicts, and distrust
potentially involved (Sithole 2002). As recognized in Western
cultures, what makes a responsible citizen or a nosy troublemaker
is often a question of perspective. There can be reticence or taboos,
even shame, in describing internal conflicts to outsiders, while
discussing such themes risks (re)igniting conflicts. Even if the
researcher is wholly trusted, which seems unlikely, sensitive
information may not be shared because of restraints on sharing
strategic, privileged, or sensitive knowledge.
Understanding how observations trigger action can be difficult
to elucidate given the knowledge, experiences, and beliefs
implicitly involved. Furthermore, effectiveness can be hard to
demonstrate. Available evidence is often anecdotal and hard to
verify, and formal experiments would be difficult and ethically
problematic. This is an area requiring further work.
Another practical challenge is to distinguish an effective deterrent
from an absence of threat. Much of the effectiveness we see in
our Mamberamo communities depends on deterrence. This in
turn frequently involves location-specific beliefs and norms in our
Ecology and Society 20(2): 39
study sites and also elsewhere, e.g., in the supernatural
punishments noted in Seram (Sasaoka and Laumonier 2012) and
the customary obligations seen in Australia (Cane 2002). In our
sites, superstition and taboos remain powerful, with communities
believing that transgressors will suffer supernatural punishments
that outsiders may ascribe simply to misfortune or bad luck.
Metaweja villagers recalled a visit by geologists in 1985 who
neglected local permissions and taboos, and cleared vegetation to
build a helipad in a sacred area. They cut bamboo and cooked
rice in a bamboo stem. According to the informants two of the
team died shortly after they left: one was responsible for cutting
the bamboo and died from unknown causes, and another had
died while bathing when a “small stone entered his head.” We
were unable to verify any aspect of these events, but the accounts
were accepted as demonstrations of supernatural punishments
within the communities, and may even give sceptics cause for
second thoughts on occasion. However, determining the power
of such deterrence in a valid manner remains a challenge.
Our interactions with both locals and outsiders who know the
region persuaded us that anyone entering local territories
believing them open for exploitation will quickly change their
minds. Future study could examine forest resource and land users,
including industries and investors, and determine what they seek
and what they avoid in terms of community presence.
Looking forward
Can we be confident that communities will maintain their
monitoring activities and continue to contribute to environmental
protection? This depends on contexts, options, and motivations.
Systems are flexible and can be influenced when it is useful. For
example, lights provide an effective way to assess crocodiles. Kay’s
crocodile hunters also adopted size restrictions, and when the
markets changed, they turned to other resources.
There is no reason to expect only positive outcomes. For example,
an increasingly cash-based economy, resource commercialization,
access to more efficient harvesting technologies, and changing
aspirations and perceptions may all pose challenges. Some
monitoring activities may decline as conflicts decline and as trust
increases. For example, the Dani watchtowers of the Baliem Valley
(also in Papua, Indonesian New Guinea) once indicated the
vigilance with which communities observed each other in a culture
of frequent small-scale raids (Gardner and Heider 1968). Such
watchtowers were costly to build, maintain, and operate, and no
longer exist because there is little need for them. In Mamberamo,
too, mistrust among communities ensures vigilance. However,
although increased trust may reduce policing efforts and
likelihood of incursions in some locations, such efforts may
decline or be expended more evenly across the territory depending
on motivations.
Recognizing local activities that contribute to conservation
outcomes has unexplored implications. Here we have focused on
the value and significance of autonomous monitoring and control
processes primarily in terms of their local significance and their
implications for those interested in achieving environmental
conservation and the protection of biodiversity. We are wary of
implying that the value of these long-neglected systems lies
primarily in how we might be able to use them. That is not our
view. The potential to adapt these systems was not the subject of
our study. Nonetheless, when considering possible synergies with
external interests, the options include how communities might
participate in and contribute to externally overseen conservation
(Cooke and Kothari 2001, Sheil and Lawrence 2004, Sayer et al.
2013) or natural resource monitoring (e.g., Guijt 2007, Danielsen
et al. 2009, Staddon et al. 2014), including the various activities
involved in monitoring as well as Measurement, Reporting and
Verification of Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest
Degradation (REDD) or payment-for-environmental-services
schemes (Boissière et al. 2014, Torres et al. 2014, Torres and
Skutsch 2015). Just as importantly, we can invert the question and
consider when and how external conservation interests can
contribute to existing community efforts.
In an ideal world we would leave these local practices alone, at
least if that is what the community wanted. However, in a world
where threats change, grow, and diversify, external agencies may
sometimes be able to play a vital role. Rather than replacing local
management systems, we should seek ways to support them. The
benefits of local monitoring are provided free to the world;
bolstering these schemes would help sustain these benefits.
Opportunities for cooperation may also exist where objectives
align (Vermeulen and Sheil 2007a, Berkes 2010, Sayer et al. 2013).
Communities are not always able to address all the challenges
confronting them, as when miners encroached on the Amazon’s
Kayapó territories (see Schwartzman and Zimmerman 2005).
Such shortfalls may sometimes be addressed through building
active collaboration with outside agencies.
There is a considerable need for basic research to recognize how
communities may cover the shortfall where government
authorities are generally overstretched and unable to effectively
manage the areas for which they are responsible. We suspect such
situations are common. We won’t know until we look.
Equally, we know nearly as little about community actions in
situations where governments and others have imposed authority
and claimed oversight. There is potential for both synergy and
conflict. We speculate that such circumstances may result in the
modification and coexistence of autonomous systems as well as
replacement and loss of the autonomous systems.
Given autonomous protection of land, water, and resources, and
the limitations of official bodies in performing a similar function,
coexistence seems desirable. There must be ways that the strengths
of each approach can work in synergy. Communities would
manage and protect against local threats, while governments and
others would provide assistance when required and focus on larger
scale challenges. Achieving such outcomes will require effort: such
an effort depends on a wider acknowledgement of both the
problem and the solution.
We call for greater attention to autonomous monitoring. Such
monitoring and control may still dominate in many regions of the
world where external authorities lack day-to-day oversight. These
systems have limits, and many pertinent questions remain
unanswered. We encourage a respectful case-by-case examination
to understand the extent, significance, and effectiveness of
community activities, from the perspective of the community as
well as our own. What are their strengths and weaknesses? How,
and in what contexts, might we protect and support them?
Whether autonomous monitoring is widespread and effective, or
Ecology and Society 20(2): 39
rare and ineffective, we need to recognize not only when local
people are willing to champion environmental causes, but also
when they are already doing so. The potential tragedy of the
unseen sentinels is that so much may be lost simply because we
failed to open our eyes to look.
Responses to this article can be read online at:
We thank the communities of Kay, Metaweja, and Yoke in
Mamberamo Raya for their participation, assistance, patience, and
hospitality. We thank Teresia Yeuw, Michael Padmanaba (Center
for International Forestry Research; CIFOR), and others team
members who collected data, and Serge Rafanoharana (CIFOR),
Agus Mohammad Salim (CIFOR), and Hendi Sumantri
(Conservation International) for their assistance in generating
maps. We acknowledge the l’Agence Française pour le
Développement (AFD) for their financial support to the project
Collaborative Land Use Planning in Papua (COLUP) and to the
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the
Norwegian Agency for Development (NORAD) for their financial
support of the research project Participatory Measuring, Reporting
and Verifying (PMRV). DS’s work with CIFOR was supported by
the European Commission. This research was carried out by CIFOR
and the Centre de coopération Internationale en Recherche
Agronomique pour le Développement (CIRAD), as part of the
CGIAR Research Program on Forests, Trees and Agroforestry. We
are grateful to Carol Colfer, Claire Miller, and two referees for many
helpful comments on an earlier draft of this paper.
Agrawal, A. 1995. Dismantling the divide between indigenous
and scientific knowledge. Development and Change 26(3):413-439.
Baker, J., E. J. Milner-Gulland, and N. Leader-Williams. 2012.
Park gazettement and integrated conservation and development
as factors in community conflict at Bwindi Impenetrable Forest,
Uganda. Conservation Biology 26(1):160-170. http://dx.doi.
Basuki, I., D. Sheil, M. Padmanaba, N. Liswanti, G. Mulcahy,
and M. Wan. 2011. The evolving role of tropical forests for local
livelihoods in Indonesia. International Journal of Environment and
Sustainable Development 10(3):267-287.
Berkes, F. 2010. Devolution of environment and resources
governance: trends and future. Environmental Conservation 37
Berkes, F., J. Colding, and C. Folke. 2000. Rediscovery of
traditional ecological knowledge as adaptive management.
Ecological Applications 10(5):1251-1262. http://dx.doi.
Berkes, F., C. Folke, and J. Colding, editors. 1998. Linking social
and ecological systems: management practices and social
mechanisms for building resilience. Cambridge University Press,
Cambridge, UK.
Blaikie, P. 2006. Is small really beautiful? Community-based
natural resource management in Malawi and Botswana. World
Development 34(11):1942-1957.
Boissière, M., G. Beaudoin, C. Hofstee, and S. Rafanoharana.
2014. Participating in REDD+ Measurement, Reporting, and
Verification (PMRV): opportunities for local people? Forests 5
Boissière, M., N. Liswanti, M. Padmanaba, and D. Sheil. 2007.
People priorities and perceptions: towards conservation
partnership in Mamberamo. Project report. Center for
International Forestry Research, Bogor, Indonesia. [online] URL:
Boissière, M., B. Locatelli, D. Sheil, M. Padmanaba, and E.
Sadjudin. 2013. Local perceptions of climate variability and
change in tropical forests of Papua, Indonesia. Ecology and
Society 18(4): 13.
Boissière, M., M. Sassen, D. Sheil, M. Heist, W. Jong, R. Cunliffe,
M. Wan, M. Padmanaba, N. Liswanti and I. Basuki. 2010.
Researching local perspectives on biodiversity in tropical
landscapes: lessons from ten case studies. Pages 113-141 in A.
Lawrence, editor. Taking stock of nature: participatory biodiversity
assessment for policy, planning and practice. Cambridge University
Press, Cambridge, UK.
Boissière, M., D. Sheil, I. Basuki, M. Wan, and H. Le. 2009. Can
engaging local people’s interests reduce forest degradation in
Central Vietnam? Biodiversity and Conservation 18(10):2743-2757.
Boissière, M., M. van Heist, D. Sheil, I. Basuki, S. Frazier, U.
Ginting, M. Wan, B. Hariadi, H. Hariyadi, H. D. Kristianto, et
al. 2006. Pentingnya sumberdaya alam bagi masyarakat lokal di
daerah aliran Sungai Mamberamo, Papua, dan implikasinya bagi
konservasi. Journal of Tropical Ethnobiology 1(2):76-95.
Brooks, T. M., S. J. Wright, and D. Sheil. 2009. Evaluating the
success of conservation actions in safeguarding tropical forest
biodiversity. Conservation Biology 23(6):1448-1457. http://dx.doi.
Bruner, A. G., R. E. Gullison, R. E. Rice, and G. A. B. da Fonseca.
2001. Effectiveness of parks in protecting tropical biodiversity.
Science 291(5501):125-128.
Cane, S. 2002. Pila Nguru: the Spinifex people. Fremantle Art
Centre Press, Fremantle, Western Australia.
Chape, S., J. Harrison, M. Spalding, and I. Lysenko. 2005.
Measuring the extent and effectiveness of protected areas as an
indicator for meeting global biodiversity targets. Philosophical
Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 360
Chhatre, A., and A. Agrawal. 2008. Forest commons and local
enforcement. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of
the United States of America 105(36):13286-13291. http://dx.doi.
Ecology and Society 20(2): 39
Colding, J., and C. Folke. 2001. Social taboos: “invisible” systems
of local resource management and biological conservation.
Ecological Applications 11(2):584-600.
Colfer, C. J. P. 2001. Fire in East Kalimantan: a panoply of
practices, views and (discouraging) effects. Borneo Research
Bulletin 32:32-56.
Contreras-Hermosilla, A. 2002. Law compliance in the forestry
sector: an overview. World Bank, Washington, D.C., USA.
Cooke, B., and U. Kothari. 2001. Participation: the new tyranny?
Zed Books, London, UK.
Cox, J. 1992. Development of the crocodile industry on a sustainable
basis. Terminal Report FAO-PHPA Project. Food and
Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, Rome, Italy.
Cox, M., G. Arnold, and S. Villamayor Tomás. 2010. A review of
design principles for community-based natural resource
management. Ecology and Society 15(4): 38. [online] URL: http://
Danielsen, F., N. D. Burgess, A. Balmford, P. F. Donald, M.
Funder, J. P. Jones, P. Alviola, D. S. Balete, T. Blomley, J.
Brashares, et al. 2009. Local participation in natural resource
monitoring: a characterization of approaches. Conservation
Biology 23(1):31-42.
Danielsen, F., P. M. Jensen, N. D. Burgess, I. Coronado, S. Holt,
M. K. Poulsen, R. M. Rueda, T. Skielboe, M. Enghoff, L. H.
Hemmingsen, et al. 2014a. Testing focus groups as a tool for
connecting indigenous and local knowledge on abundance of
natural resources with science-based land management systems.
Conservation Letters 7(4):380-389.
Danielsen, F., K. Pirhofer-Walzl, T. P. Adrian, D. R.
Kapijimpanga, N. D. Burgess, P. M. Jensen, R. Bonney, M.
Funder, A. Landa, N. Levermann, et al. 2014b. Linking public
participation in scientific research to the indicators and needs of
international environmental agreements. Conservation Letters 7
Departmen Kehutanan [Forestry Department]. 2010. Statistik
tahun 2009 [statistics for the year 2009]. Balai Besar Konservasi
Sumber Daya Alam Papua, Departmen Kehutanan, Jayapura,
Papua, Indonesia.
Engle, N. L. 2011. Adaptive capacity and its assessment. Global
Environmental Change 21(2):647-656.
Frazier, S. 1988. Mamberamo river crocodile monitoring patrol in
the Pagai area. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United
Nations, Jayapura, Papua, Indonesia.
Galinato, G. I., and S. P. Galinato. 2013. The short-run and long-
run effects of corruption control and political stability on forest
cover. Ecological Economics 89:153-161.
Gardner, R., and K. G. Heider. 1968. Gardens of war. Random
House, New York, New York, USA.
Gardner, T. 2012. Monitoring forest biodiversity: improving
conservation through ecologically-responsible management:
Routledge, Abingdon, UK.
Guijt, I. 2007. Negotiated learning: collaborative monitoring in
forest resource management. Resources For the Future,
Washington, D.C., USA.
Hellier, A., A. C. Newton, and S. O. Gaona. 1999. Use of
indigenous knowledge for rapidly assessing trends in biodiversity:
a case study from Chiapas, Mexico. Biodiversity & Conservation
Johannes, R. E. 2002. The renaissance of community-based
marine resource management in Oceania. Annual Review of
Ecology and Systematics 33:317-340.
Keim, A. P. 2012. The pandan flora of Foja-Mamberamo Game
Reserve and Baliem Valley, Papua-Indonesia. Reinwardtia 13
LaRochelle, S., and F. Berkes. 2003. Traditional ecological
knowledge and practice for edible wild plants: biodiversity use by
the Rarámuri, in the Sirerra Tarahumara, Mexico. International
Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology 10
Larson, A. M., and F. Soto. 2008. Decentralization of natural
resource governance regimes. Annual Review of Environment and
Resources 33(1):213.
Lund, J. F., K. Balooni, and L. Puri. 2010. Perception-based
methods to evaluate conservation impact in forests managed
through popular participation. Ecology and Society 15(3): 5.
[online] URL:
Marshall, A. J., and B. M. Beehler. 2007. The ecology of Papua.
Periplus Editions, Singapore.
McCarthy, D. P., P. F. Donald, J. P. W. Scharlemann, G. M.
Buchanan, A. Balmford, J. M. H. Green, L. A. Bennun, N. D.
Burgess, L. D. C. Fishpool, S. T. Garnett, et al. 2012. Financial
costs of meeting global biodiversity conservation targets: current
spending and unmet needs. Science 338(6109):946-949. http://dx.
McCreless, E., P. Visconti, J. Carwardine, C. Wilcox, and R. J.
Smith. 2013. Cheap and nasty? The potential perils of using
management costs to identify global conservation priorities.
PLoS One 8(11):e80893.
Miller, F., H. Osbahr, E. Boyd, F. Thomalla, S. Bharwani, G.
Ziervogel, B. Walker, J. Birkmann, S. van der Leeuw, J. Rockström,
et al. 2010. Resilience and vulnerability: complementary or
conflicting concepts. Ecology and Society 15(3): 11. [online] URL:
Molnar, A., S. J. Scherr, and A. Khare. 2004. Who conserves the
world’s forests? Community-driven strategies to protect forests and
respect rights. Policy Brief. Forest Trends, Washington, D.C.,
USA. [online] URL:
Ecology and Society 20(2): 39
Nichols, J. D., and B. K. Williams. 2006. Monitoring for
conservation. Trends in Ecology & Evolution 21(12):668-673.
Normile, D. 2010. Saving forests to save biodiversity. Science 329
Oliver, P. M., S. M. Richards, and B. Tjaturadi. 2012. Two new
species of Callulops (Anura: Microhylidae) from montane forests
in New Guinea. Zootaxa 3178:33-44.
Ostrom, E. 1990. Governing the commons: the evolution of
institutions for collective action. Political Economy of Institutions
and Decisions. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.
Ostrom, E., J. Burger, C. B. Field, R. B. Norgaard, and D.
Policansky. 1999. Revisiting the commons: local lessons, global
challenges. Science 284(278):278-282.
Padmanaba, M., M. Boissière, Ermayanti, H. Sumantri, and R.
Achdiawan. 2012. Perspectives on collaborative land use planning
in Mamberamo Raya Regency, Papua, Indonesia: case studies from
Burmeso, Kwerba, Metaweja, Papasena, and Yoke. Project Report.
Center for International Forestry Research, Bogor, Indonesia.
[online] URL:
Padmanaba, M., D. Sheil, I. Basuki, and N. Liswanti. 2013.
Accessing local knowledge to identify where species of
conservation concern occur in a tropical forest landscape.
Environmental Management 52(2):348-359.
Pagdee, A., Y.-S. Kim, and P. Daugherty. 2006. What makes
community forest management successful: a meta-study from
community forests throughout the world. Society and Natural
Resources 19(1):33-52.
Rencana Tata Ruang Wilayah (RTRW). 2009. Kabupaten
Mamberamo Raya Tahun 2009-2029 Provinsi Papua-Laporan
akhir. PT. Karsa Utama Bumisaka, Jakarta, Indonesia.
Richards, S. J., and S. Suryadi, editors. 2002. A biodiversity
assessment of Yongsu-Cyclops Mountains and the Southern
Mamberamo Basin, Papua, Indonesia. RAP Bulletin of Biological
Assessment 25. Conservation International, Washington, D.C.,
Ricketts, T. H., E. Dinerstein, T. Boucher, T. M. Brooks, S. H. M.
Butchart, M. Hoffmann, J. F. Lamoreux, J. Morrison, M. Parr, J.
D. Pilgrim, et al. 2005. Pinpointing and preventing imminent
extinctions. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of
the United States of America 102(51):18497-18501. http://dx.doi.
Robertson-Snape, F. 1999. Corruption, collusion and nepotism
in Indonesia. Third World Quarterly 20(3):589-602. http://dx.doi.
Rodrigues, A. S. L., H. R. Akçakaya, S. J. Andelman, M. I. Bakarr,
L. Boitani, T. M. Brooks, J. S. Chanson, L. D. C. Fishpool, G. A.
B. da Fonseca, K. J. Gaston, et al. 2004. Global gap analysis:
priority regions for expanding the global protected-area network.
BioScience 54(12):1092-1100.
Rustagi, D., S. Engel, and M. Kosfeld. 2010. Conditional
cooperation and costly monitoring explain success in forest
commons management. Science 330(6006):961-965. http://dx.
Sasaoka, M., and Y. Laumonier. 2012. Suitability of local
resource management practices based on supernatural
enforcement mechanisms in the local social-cultural context.
Ecology and Society 17(4): 6.
Sassen, M., and C. Jum. 2007. Assessing local perspectives in a
forested landscape of central Cameroon. Forests, Trees and
Livelihoods 17(1):23-42.
Sayer, J., T. Sunderland, J. Ghazoul, J.-L. Pfund, D. Sheil, E.
Meijaard, M. Venter, A. K. Boedhihartono, M. Day, C. Garcia,
et al. 2013. Ten principles for a landscape approach to reconciling
agriculture, conservation, and other competing land uses.
Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United
States of America 110(21):8349-8356.
Scholte, P., and W. T. De Groot. 2010. From debate to insight:
three models of immigration to protected areas. Conservation
Biology 24(2):630.
Schwartzman, S., and B. Zimmerman. 2005. Conservation
alliances with indigenous peoples of the Amazon. Conservation
Biology 19(3):721-727.
Scott, J. 1985. Weapons of the weak: everyday forms of peasant
resistance. Yale University Press, New Haven, Connecticut, USA.
Sharpe, B. 1998. ‘First the forest’: conservation, ‘community’ and
‘participation’ in south-west Cameroon. Africa 68(1):25-45.
Sheil, D. 2001. Conservation and biodiversity monitoring in the
tropics: realities, priorities, and distractions. Conservation Biology
Sheil, D., and M. Boissière. 2006. Local people may be the best
allies in conservation. Nature 440(7086):868-868. http://dx.doi.
Sheil, D., and A. Lawrence. 2004. Tropical biologists, local people
and conservation: new opportunities for collaboration. Trends in
Ecology & Evolution 19(12):634-638.
Sheil, D., and N. Liswanti. 2006. Scoring the importance of
tropical forest landscapes with local people: patterns and insights.
Environmental Management 38(1):126-136.
Sheil, D., E. Meijaard, A. Angelsen, J. Sayer, and J. K. Vanclay.
2013. Sharing future conservation costs. Science 339
Sheil, D., R. K. Puri, I. Basuki, M. van Heist, M. Wan, N.
Liswanti, E. Permana, E. M. Angi, F. Gatzweiler, and B. Johnson.
2002. Exploring biological diversity, environment and local people’s
Ecology and Society 20(2): 39
perspectives in forest landscapes: methods for a multidisciplinary
landscape assessment. Center for International Forestry Research,
Jakarta, Indonesia. [online] URL:
Sheil, D., R. Puri, M. Wan, I. Basuki, M. van Heist, N. Liswanti,
Rukmiyati, I. Rachmatika, and I. Samsoedin. 2006. Recognizing
local people’s priorities for tropical forest biodiversity. Ambio 35
Sheil, D., and S. Wunder. 2002. The value of tropical forest to
local communities: complications, caveats, and cautions.
Conservation Ecology 6(2):9.
Sithole, B. 2002. Where the power lies: multiple stakeholder politics
over natural resources: a participatory methods guide. Center for
International Forestry Research, Jakarta, Indonesia.
Smith, E. A., and M. Wishnie. 2000. Conservation and subsistence
in small-scale societies. Annual Review of Anthropology
Solomon, J., S. K. Jacobson, K. D. Wald, and M. Gavin. 2007.
Estimating illegal resource use at a Ugandan park with the
randomized response technique. Human Dimensions of Wildlife
Staddon, S. C., A. Nightingale, and S. K. Shrestha. 2014. The
social nature of participatory ecological monitoring. Society &
Natural Resources 27(9):899-914.
Stem, C., R. Margoluis, N. Salafsky, and M. Brown. 2005.
Monitoring and evaluation in conservation: a review of trends
and approaches. Conservation Biology 19(2):295-309. http://dx.
Takeuchi, W. 2009. Ardisia hymenandroides (Myrsinaceae), an
unusual monoaxial species from the Foja Mountains of West New
Guinea. Harvard Papers in Botany 14(2):167-172. http://dx.doi.
Torres, A. B., L. A. S. Acuña, and J. M. C. Vergara. 2014.
Integrating CBM into land-use based mitigation actions
implemented by local communities. Forests 5(12):3295-3326.
Torres, A. B., and M. Skutsch. 2015. The potential role for
community monitoring in MRV and in benefit sharing in
REDD+. Forests 6(1):244-251.
Turner, N. J., F. Berkes, J. Stephenson, and J. Dick. 2013.
Blundering intruders: extraneous impacts on two indigenous food
systems. Human Ecology 41(4):563-574.
van Heist, M., D. Sheil, I. Rachman, P. Gusbager, C. O. Raweyai,
and H. S. M. Yoteni. 2010. The forests and related vegetation of
Kwerba, on the Foja Foothills, Mamberamo, Papua (Indonesian
New Guinea). Blumea 55(2):153-161. http://dx.doi.
Vermeulen, S., and D. Sheil. 2007a. Partnerships for tropical
conservation. Oryx 41(4):434-440.
Vermeulen, S., and D. Sheil. 2007b. The possibility of common
ground: a reply to Mavhunga and Robinson. Oryx 41(4):445-446.
Wadley, R. L., and C. J. P. Colfer. 2004. Sacred forest, hunting,
and conservation in West Kalimantan, Indonesia. Human
Ecology 32(3):313-338.
Appendix 1
This appendix summarizes published literature relating to autonomous monitoring by
people deriving their livelihood largely from wild species in tropical regions.
Our ISI keyword search (see methods) provided several hundred hits. Most dealt with
healthcare or with citizen science within Western industrial societies and were thus
excluded. When titles and abstracts were reviewed for possible relevant papers, 23
were examined in full text, with a further 33 texts of interest identified from the
citations also examined. Only two of these 56 texts met our criteria by describing
autonomous processes relevant to conservation in a tropical context. Of these, only
one explicitly considers such monitoring in practice (LaRochelle and Berkes 2003)
while the other recognizes their existence but lacks examples (Danielsen et al. 2009)
but see also (Danielsen et al. 2014). From our own readings, and the suggestions of
two reviewers, we have identified further cases that place our observations in a
broader context. Most examples are implicit rather than explicit.
Several temperate or boreal examples do offer useful insights that may have wider
applicability (Moller et al. 2004). However, these are mainly pre-occupied with
collaboration and participatory approaches which is not our focus here.
Regulations, sanctions and self-policing are part of communal management and
feature as a key element in the common property literature (Ostrom 1990, Ostrom et
al. 1999, Berkes 2010). Studies indicate that autonomous policing and enforcement
help avoid excessive exploitation of shared resources (Chhatre and Agrawal 2008,
Rustagi et al. 2010) and that increased monitoring and sanctioning are associated
with less resource degradation (Pagdee et al. 2006). Most discussion focuses on
principles rather than the technical details that might normally be applied to
discussions of monitoring. For example, members of some Swiss Alpine communities
police common areas and can impose fines on other members when accepted rules
are violated (Casari and Plott 2003).
Common-property self-monitoring can produce surprising implications. For example,
in one case-study community members in Zimbabwe were concerned that valuable
grass (used for commercial broom-making) was being degraded and overharvested.
The community themselves suggested, among other things, to increase, not
decrease, the number of households accessing and thus benefitting from this
declining resource the view was that if more people benefitted there would be more
observers intolerant of damaging practices (Vanclay 2010).
Outside the common property literature examples of autonomous monitoring
practices are harder to find largely because they are not readily identified with key
words or summaries.
Pacific islanders often practice various measures to prevent the overharvesting of
marine resources (Johannes 2002, Jupiter et al. 2014). Measures often include
controlled access and the enforcement of no take zones and/or seasons. For
example 27 out of 27 villages interviewed in Vanuatu prohibited exploitation of local
marine resources by outsiders without permission, and many had established local
bans on exploiting specific sites, or species, or using certain harvest methods
(Johannes 1998). The effectiveness of these measures has led to recognition,
encouragement, and renaissance in such management (Johannes 2002). Our own
reading of this literature provides many examples of the principles being applied but
few details of how rules are enforced.
We find examples in the literature that address monitoring without using the term. For
example, in Seram, Indonesia, the forest is traditionally divided into parcels owned by
families who have exclusive rights for gathering resources and hunting. The owners
rest parcels when resources appear depleted. During these rest periods the parcel
owners may observe evidence of illicit use (Sasaoka and Laumonier 2012). In these
cases the land owner claims to know, based on the evidence, who is responsible.
The alleged wrongdoer is not confronted, but the allegations are shared discreetly
within the community, and any subsequent misfortune that befalls the purported
perpetrator or their family is interpreted as supernatural punishment (Sasaoka and
Laumonier 2012). While accurately described as an example of supernatural
involvement in management (Sasaoka and Laumonier 2012), it also relies, albeit
implicitly, on the repeated observations that lead to resting land and identifying illicit
A typical account of how resource users interact with their environment is provided by
LaRochelle and Berkes (2003) who studied the management of wild forest food
plants by the Raramuri people of Chihuahua State in Mexico and commented that
resource monitoring was part of “daily activities, such as gathering livestock,
collecting fuel wood, or harvesting plants … participants noted that to monitor the
state of edible plants, people must harvest and use them”.
Another example: in the deserts of Western Australia the aboriginal “Spinifex People”
considered land to be sacred. Each community member learned the complex
mythology tying them and their ancestors to specific locations and territories with
associated rules, roles, rights and responsibilities. Only close family freely enter
another’s territory without permission. Roles and responsibilities include site
protection (Cane 2002). For example, certain waterholes can only be accessed by
specific men who manage the surrounding vegetation and keep the water clean (no
one else can draw water, but in droughts they may gain permission to camp nearby
and have water carried to them). Punishments for transgressions were historically
severe, but for most the fear and shame were sufficient deterrent. Local knowledge,
tracking skills and rapid action provided effective control over a vast region: in 1995
for example, some elders intercepted a group of unauthorized geologists who were
guided off the territory and told not to return (Cane 2002). Again nothing in this
account identified the activities as monitoring.
Evolutionary psychology suggests that self-policing has molded our behaviors (Fehr
and Gächter 2000, Rand and Nowak 2013). Examples include human interest in
what others are doing, willingness to punish, and the influence of observation (Haley
and Fessler 2005, Bernhard et al. 2006, Powell et al. 2012, Miyazaki 2013, Nettle et
al. 2013).
Berkes, F. 2010. Devolution of environment and resources governance: trends and future.
Environmental Conservation 37:489-500.
Bernhard, H., U. Fischbacher, and E. Fehr. 2006. Parochial altruism in humans. Nature
Cane, S. 2002. Pila Nguru: the Spinifex People. Fremantle Art Centre Press, Fremantle,
Western Australia.
Casari, M. and C. R. Plott. 2003. Decentralized management of common property resources:
experiments with a centuries-old institution. Journal of Economic Behavior &
Organization 51:217-247.
Chhatre, A. and A. Agrawal. 2008. Forest commons and local enforcement. Proceedings of
the National Academy of Sciences 105:13286-13291.
Danielsen, F., N. D. Burgess, A. Balmford, P. F. Donald, M. Funder, J. P. Jones, P. Alviola,
D. S. Balete, T. Blomley, and J. Brashares. 2009. Local participation in natural
resource monitoring: a characterization of approaches. Conservation Biology 23:31-
Danielsen, F., K. PirhoferWalzl, T. P. Adrian, D. R. Kapijimpanga, N. D. Burgess, P. M.
Jensen, R. Bonney, M. Funder, A. Landa, and N. Levermann. 2014. Linking public
participation in scientific research to the indicators and needs of international
environmental agreements. Conservation Letters 7:12-24.
Fehr, E. and S. Gächter. 2000. Cooperation and punishment in public goods experiments.
American Economic Review 90:980-994.
Haley, K. J. and D. M. T. Fessler. 2005. Nobody's watching?: Subtle cues affect generosity in
an anonymous economic game. Evolution and Human Behavior 26:245-256.
Johannes, R. 1998. Government-supported, village-based management of marine resources
in Vanuatu. Ocean & coastal management 40:165-186.
Johannes, R. E. 2002. The renaissance of community-based marine resource management
in Oceania. Annual Review of Ecology and Systematics:317-340.
Jupiter, S. D., P. J. Cohen, R. Weeks, A. Tawake, and H. Govan. 2014. Locally-managed
marine areas: multiple objectives and diverse strategies. Pacific Conservation Biology
LaRochelle, S. and F. Berkes. 2003. Traditional ecological knowledge and practice for edible
wild plants: Biodiversity use by the Rarámuri, in the Sirerra Tarahumara, Mexico. The
International Journal of Sustainable Development & World Ecology 10:361-375.
Miyazaki, Y. 2013. Increasing visual search accuracy by being watched. PloS one 8.
Moller, H., F. Berkes, P. O. B. Lyver, and M. Kislalioglu. 2004. Combining science and
traditional ecological knowledge: monitoring populations for co-management. Ecology
and Society 9:2.
Nettle, D., Z. Harper, A. Kidson, R. Stone, I. S. Penton-Voak, and M. Bateson. 2013. The
watching eyes effect in the Dictator Game: it's not how much you give, it's being seen
to give something. Evolution and Human Behavior 34:35-40.
Ostrom, E. 1990. Governing the commons: The evolution of institutions for collective action
(political economy of institutions and decisions). Cambridge University Press,
Cambridge, UK.
Ostrom, E., J. Burger, C. B. Field, R. B. Norgaard, and D. Policansky. 1999. Revisiting the
commons: local lessons, global challenges. Science 284:278-282.
Pagdee, A., Y.-s. Kim, and P. Daugherty. 2006. What makes community forest management
successful: a meta-study from community forests throughout the world. Society and
Natural Resources 19:33-52.
Powell, K. L., G. Roberts, and D. Nettle. 2012. Eye images increase charitable donations:
evidence from an opportunistic field experiment in a supermarket. Ethology 118:1096-
Rand, D. G. and M. A. Nowak. 2013. Human cooperation. Trends in Cognitive Sciences
Rustagi, D., S. Engel, and M. Kosfeld. 2010. Conditional cooperation and costly monitoring
explain success in forest commons management. Science 330:961-965.
Sasaoka, M. and Y. Laumonier. 2012. Suitability of local resource management practices
based on supernatural enforcement mechanisms in the local social-cultural context.
Ecology and Society 17:6.
Vanclay, J. K. 2010. Participatory modelling to inform rural development: case studies from
Zimbabwe and Australia. International Journal of Environmental and Rural
Development 1:122-126.
Appendix 2
This appendix provides a more comprehensive description of the communities and
their livelihood context.
Kay: Most of the territory is level and seasonally flooded but there is steeper terrain
reaching to about 350 m a.s.l. in the north. Valued resources included sago
(Metroxylon sagu), rattan (various species Calamus spp., Daemonorops, spp. and
perhaps Korthalsia spp.), crocodile (Crocodylus novaeguineae and C. porosus), fish
(various marine and fresh water species), wild pigs (Sus scrofa), cassowaries
(Casuarius unappendiculatus), and decorative birds (primarily “Lesser bird-of-
paradise Paradisaea minor but also the “Twelve-wired bird-of-paradise” Seleucidis
melanoleucus). The community had two settlements at the time of our surveys which
were relatively close to each other and accessible, and the community still operated
as a single unit (we spent most time in Kay 1). Access to both settlements was by
boat, dependent on river conditions. Clan territories were bounded by river channels.
Metaweja: The mountainous territory reached 900m a.s.l. and was steeply incised
with an abundance of streams and rivers. Access was challenging with rivers
frequently un-navigable by boats due to rocks and low water. People often walked for
several days to and from the village. The most valued resources were wild pigs,
cassowaries, bird-of-paradise, and sago. Boundaries between clan territories follow
rivers and ridges.
Yoke: The territory comprised low-lying coastal mangrove, lakes and tidal swamps
(fresh, brackish and salt water) divided by channels with a few low scattered hills.
Access by small boat was relatively simple. Important resources included fish,
crocodile, sago and coconut (Cocos nucifera).
Access and communication
Local people sometimes walked among settlements but preferred boats when the
rivers were navigable. Outboard engines were widely used. Planes could be used to
evacuate people needing medical treatment (see later).
There was no phone coverage. Two-way radios provided regular communication
among settlements, and were used to plan local flights. Nonetheless, passing boats
remained a major source of local information. Boats could not easily pass any
settlement unobserved most stopped to exchange news and specific messages
were often passed between communities.
Language and education
Each village possessed distinct local languages (Kay has two). Most people had at
least basic Indonesian and many, including most young men, are fluent. Our surveys
indicate that most men and women in Yoke had some formal education (156 of 193
selected systematically, with 9 of 193 villagers having higher education i.e. training at
college or university) but in less accessible Metaweja (92 of 214 villagers, with 3 of
214 villagers had higher education) and Kay (no systematic data) only about half had
any schooling.
External influences
Government and church missions provide some services. School and clinic buildings
exist but staff were generally absent during our work periods. All three villages had
elementary schools but only Kay had a secondary school in the other villages many
teenagers (mostly boys) attend secondary school in other towns returning only during
school holidays. Government officials visited occasionally, e.g. with health programs
and for elections.
Church missions had invested in village buildings and maintained a regional system
of light planes and commercial flights to support church activities and evacuate
medical emergencies. Kay had a poorly maintained airstrip for small planes.
Construction of an airstrip at Metaweja began in 2011.
Interactions with other outsiders were limited. A team surveyed crocodiles and visited
many communities in the 1980s (Frazier 1988). Our own research, and the activities
of Conservation International, have involved sporadic visits over a decade. There
was no regular tourism (we encountered one independent traveler in 2013).
Metaweja villagers recalled a visit by geologists in 1985 (see discussion).
Sago (Metroxylon sagu both wild and planted) was the principal staple in all three
communities. Other crops included banana (Musa sp.), coconut (Coco nucifera),
cassava (Manihot esculenta), sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) and taro (Colocasia
esculenta). Hunting and fishing provided animal fat and protein. Fishing
predominated in the dry season and hunting in wetter months, a cycle that we were
told follows animal abundance and fruit seasons. Hunting relies on traditional
methods. Though some people own air rifles we saw no evidence of more powerful
guns. Fishing involves nylon nets and boats with outboard engines. Gardens, fallows
and the areas used for gathering fuel wood tended to be close to habitation, whereas
hunting occurred over larger areas.
Aside from the village leader, secretary and some teaching, paid work in the
villages was absent. Remittances were important for some families but most
households traded products when they needed cash. The villages had kiosks selling
basic goods (matches, batteries, thread, detergent, knives, etc.); these were stocked
by traders who operated along the main rivers and also bought local products for
cash. Trade items included dried fish swim-bladders used in traditional Chinese
remedies, dried meat and bird-of-paradise (both skins and live birds). From the
1950s until 2008, when prices fell too low, crocodile skin collection was a lucrative
activity for many. Cash crops played a negligible role.
Land ownership, access and controls
Clear ownership and rights of access and use occurred in all three territories though
there are some localized nuances and occasional ambiguities. Some boundary areas
were shared between friendly communities, for example Yoke and Subu share
fishing rights in Lake Tabaresia. Much depends on local relationships; for example at
Metaweja’s border with Gunung Surumaja incursions are not tolerated, while Tamaja,
another neighboring village, shares the river Hakwa, which marks the border
between them. Neighboring villagers are on good terms with Metaweja; they even
occasionally request and are granted permission to hunt or collect in an agreed area
within Metaweja’s territory.
Lands within each community territory were further subdivided by clans (marga).
Some older sago groves were jointly managed within clans, or occasionally at village
level (some sago groves in Yoke) but for recent plantings and all other crops, private
ownership applied (individual, family or clan). Most large rivers were accessible to
fishing by all villagers regardless of clan, but most other products were subject to
clan oversight, rights and restrictions though permission could be requested by
others. Rights to land and resources were inherited through the father’s clan line
though children could sometimes claim certain rights within their mother’s clan
territory, and we heard of a case (in Yoke) where a family had changed a child’s
recognized clan to that of the mother.
Informants generally answer questions only about areas under their own clan.
(Villagers in Kay were especially reluctant to mention clan territories to outsiders as
the village settlement lies within two clan territories, the Tebeiko and the Weriko, and
this is recognized as a potential source of conflict among the clans, though clan
boundaries are clearly recognized in the surrounding territory).
The communities recognized and enforced various rules governing access and
activities in all areas. Details varied by site but access to all areas outside of the main
river and the village required pre-existing rights or specific permission. Some areas
were strictly protected and all extractive activity prohibited: these included sacred
areas such as mountains in Metaweja, lakes and springs in Kay, and certain
channels among the mangrove in Yoke (the latter covering an estimated 5% of the
territory). Community members seldom entered such areas due to concerns about
harmful spirits. Entering them “safely” required formal rituals and visitors had to be
accompanied by a designated clan member.
Traditional beliefs were influential in preventing hunting and other exploration over
extensive sections of territory including sacred areas. People from all three villages
would behave differently when passing near or through sacred locations: becoming
silent, switching off of torches and generally avoiding activities which might draw the
attention of spirits. Sacred areas were frequently mentioned in Metaweja and Kay. In
Yoke the people were uncomfortable with this topic. We believe that this difference
reflected the customary leader in Yoke dismissing these old beliefs (he was also a
Authority roles
Three sources of authority operate in the villages: traditional, governmental and
religious: this tripartite authority is a general feature of the region (Gibson 2007). All
formal leaders were men: though many women were highly respected and influential.
There was a traditional leader (Ondoafi) in each community along with elders for
each clan (kepala marga and kepala suku). In all three communities traditional
practices persisted such as in approving marriages. Marriages are not permitted
within clans but must take place between them. Generally the woman joins the
husband’s clan, but in Metaweja we were told that outsiders could marry a local
woman as long as they paid, provided a sister to a local man, or agreed to settle in
the village.
The government representative was the village leader or kepala desa with a village
secretary or sekretaris desa who acted as a deputy. The kepala desa is proposed by
the village elders and then has to be endorsed by the head of the Regency who also
appoints the secretary. The kepala desa would be expected to report any serious
crimes to higher authorities though such interventions were, we heard, very rare.
There were no local police or regular police activities in any village. Villagers reported
that a sustained fight in a neighboring village (Burmeso) resulted in a kepala desa
requesting and being sent a small military contingent who arrested those involved.
All villagers claimed to be Christian. The church was present through pastors
(pendeta, guru injil). Christian Missions arrived in 1953 and most villagers formally
belong to the protestant church (Gereja Kristen Indonesia) though a few are Seventh
Day Adventists. Most people regularly attended church services. The church often
encouraged discussions within each village that touched on non-religious matters
and were often called upon in resolving conflicts. These discussions typically
followed the Sunday service directed by the pastor.
In practice most misdemeanors and conflicts were, we were told, addressed by
“traditional” means – though the kepala desa and church can be influential. Such
roles vary with the leaders and by circumstances; notably Metaweja was unusual in
that the customary leader is absent and disengaged (he resided in Kasonaweja) and
the government elected leader was also the local pastor and thus held considerable
Frazier, S. 1988. Mamberamo River crocodile monitoring patrol in the Pagai area. FAO, Jaya
Gibson, T. 2007. Islamic narrative and authority in Southeast Asia. Palgrave Macmillan, New
York, USA.
... Our surveys were part of a preliminary assessment of the needs, preferences, and concerns of local communities to inform conservation planning [20][21][22][23]. Despite the appreciation that conservation needs to include the views of local people, effective methods to achieve this remain a subject of research [6,[24][25][26][27][28]. In this context, we applied a set of methods to establish a shared understanding with local communities and assess their needs, concerns, and preferences in conjunction with conventional surveys of vegetation and soils. ...
... The botanists Lam and Kremer each made some riverside collections in the 1920s, and subsequently a couple of scientific expeditions visited the wider region, but none of these explored Papasena or examined floodplain forests. The general description we provide here is a combination of our own observations and other sources [22,[25][26][27]40,45,47]. ...
... The limited soil nomenclature, along with discussions, also suggests that cultivation, at least as currently practiced, is relatively new in these communities. More detail on these cultural aspects is discussed elsewhere [22,24,25,40,47]. We found that people in Papasena generally use the best black soils to cultivate maize, banana, peanut, sweet potato, and cassava, while "swampy soils" are used to cultivate sago. ...
Full-text available
New Guinea is the world’s largest, most speciose, and most culturally rich tropical island, and the little-studied Mamberamo Basin of Papua (Indonesian New Guinea) is recognised among the region’s most-important areas for biological diversity. Here, we examined the floodplain forests in the indigenous territory of Papasena, within the Mamberamo-Foja Wildlife Reserve in the Mamberamo Basin. As part of a training activity with local researchers, students, and civil servants, and with the permission and assistance of the local people, we employed various methods including the field surveys detailed here. We used variable-area tree plots, transects for non-trees and soil sampling, and local informants to document 17 plots: four in old-growth dryland forest, five in old-growth swamp forests (two seasonally flooded and three permanently wet including one dominated by sago, Metroxylon sagu Rottb.), five in secondary forest (fallows), and three in gardens (two in swamps and one on dryland). In total, we measured 475 trees over 10 cm in diameter at 1.3 m (dbh). The swamp forests had high local basal areas (highest value 45.1 m2 ha−1) but relatively low statures (20 m but with emergent trees over 40 m). In total, 422 morphospecies from 247 genera and 89 different families were distinguished. These included 138 tree species and 284 non-tree plant species. A quarter (105) of the morphospecies lacked species-level identifications. The woody families Rubiaceae, Araceae, Moraceae, and Euphorbiaceae were especially diverse, with 20 or more morphospecies each. Tree richness was highest in dryland forest (plot 7 having 28 species in 40 stems over 10 cm dbh) with more variation in the flooded forests. Non-tree vegetation showed similar patterns ranging from 65 species in one 40-by-5 m primary forest plot to just 5 in one seasonally flooded forest plot. The local people identified many plants as useful. Among trees, at least 59 species were useful for construction (the most common use), while, for non-trees, medicinal uses were most frequent. Inceptisols dominated (12 plots), followed by Ultisols and Entisols (3 and 2 plots, respectively). Drainage appeared poor and nutrient availability low, while land-suitability criteria implied little potential for crops aside from sago. We discuss the implication of local practises and more recent developments that may threaten the conservation of these floodplain systems. We underline the key role of local people in the oversight and protection of these ecosystems.
... Although the conservation outcomes achieved by community conserved areas (CCAs) vary widely depending on the context (Rao et al., 2016), there is increasing evidence that securing land rights for Indigenous Peoples over forest land is an effective and important conservation management strategy (Fa et al., 2020;Oliveira et al., 2007;. Furthermore, governance by Indigenous Peoples is having a positive conservation impact outside of protected areas, with studies showing that areas under their governance harbor as much biodiversity as protected areas (Schuster et al., 2019;Sheil et al., 2015). The high focus on site designation contrasts strongly with the very limited attention given to delivering Aichi Targets concerned with conserving biodiversity outside of protected areas, including lands governed by Indigenous People . ...
Over fifty years of global conservation has failed to bend the curve of biodiversity loss, so we need to transform the ways we govern biodiversity. The UN Convention on Biological Diversity aims to develop and implement a transformative framework for the coming decades. However, the question of what transformative biodiversity governance entails and how it can be implemented is complex. This book argues that transformative biodiversity governance means prioritizing ecocentric, compassionate and just sustainable development. This involves implementing five governance approaches - integrative, inclusive, adaptive, transdisciplinary and anticipatory governance - in conjunction and focused on the underlying causes of biodiversity loss and unsustainability. Transforming Biodiversity Governance is an invaluable source for academics, policy makers and practitioners working in biodiversity and sustainability governance. This is one of a series of publications associated with the Earth System Governance Project. For more publications, see This title is also available as Open Access on Cambridge Core.
... Community-based natural resource management in Tanah Papua has the potential to protect large areas, because land is a common asset in many local communities (Sheil et al., 2015). However, traditional resource management practices may differ from the objectives of governmentally issued social forestry permits (Fatem, 2019;Sahide et al., 2020). ...
Full-text available
Land-use change has progressed rapidly throughout the Indonesian archipelago and is now intruding into western New Guinea (Tanah Papua), one of the world’s last wilderness areas with extensive tracts of pristine and highly diverse tropical rainforests. Tanah Papua has reached a crossroads between accelerating environmental degradation and sustainable development policies entailing landscape-scale conservation targets, pledged in the Manokwari Declaration. We assessed the representation of ecoregions and elevational zones within Tanah Papua’s protected area network to identify its shortcomings at broad spatial scales. Lowland ecoregions are less protected than mountainous regions, with half of the western and southern lowlands designated for land-use concessions. Under the direct threat from land-use change, the political motivation in Tanah Papua toward conservation- and culture-centered land management provides a window of opportunity for scientifically guided, proactive conservation planning that integrates sustainable development for the benefit of Indigenous communities.
... They patrol throughout the year and are often the only agencies on the lands and waters. Similar Guardian programs similarly exist across Canada and elsewhere and provide one mechanism by which decolonial management might be implemented across other varied geographies and cultural contexts (Artelle et al., 2019;Reed et al., 2021;Sheil et al., 2015;Social Ventures Australia, 2016;Trousdale & Andrews, 2016). However, at the moment, Guardians neither have powers of enforcement nor have the laws or legislations of their Nations recognized by provincial or federal agencies, who instead assert their own jurisdiction and enforcement of their own natural resource laws. ...
Full-text available
Global biodiversity declines are increasingly recognized as profound ecological and social crises. In areas subject to colonialization, these declines have advanced in lockstep with settler colonialism and imposition of centralized resource management by settler states. Many have suggested that resurgent Indigenous-led governance systems could help arrest these trends while advancing effective and socially just approaches to environmental interactions that benefit people and places alike. However, how dominant management and conservation approaches might be decolonized (i.e., how their underlying colonial structure might be addressed, transformed, and replaced) is not always clear. Here, we describe a ‘Decolonial Model of Environmental Management and Conservation’ as an alternative paradigm to dominant approaches of conservation and management. The tenets of the model describe characteristics that might be expected of decolonized management, contrasted with those of dominant state-led approaches such as those embedded in the North American Model of Wildlife Conservation. The model does not prescribe how Indigenous governments or communities ought to govern their own territories, but instead offers insights into how external management and conservation agencies and practitioners might support (or stop impeding) Indigenous-led governance. We illustrate the model with a conservation ‘bright spot’: grizzly bear stewardship in the area now referred to as the Great Bear Rainforest in British Columbia, Canada, with a focus on work led by or in collaboration with, and within the territories of, the Haíɫzaqv, Kitasoo/Xai’xais, Nuxalk, and Wuikinuxv First Nations. While acknowledging the important context-specific variability among place-based management and conservation applications, we also discuss the model’s broader applicability.
... Mergen Markov and other ex-poachers involved in a conservation project run by the World Wildlife Fund WWF efficiently assist in monitoring the snow leopard population and countering poaching in the area: the main aim of the project is to change local people's mindset and attitude towards poaching and to provide them with a more attractive source of income, which is what the WWF plans to pursue further. Also, [20,21]. ...
Full-text available
The paper is concerned with theoretical and practical aspects of the poaching phenomenon as national and transnational environmental crime. It critically examines Russian legislation on the use of biological resources in general and countering poaching in particular and presents a review of research con-ducted internationally and in Russia as well as statistical data provided by international organizations and state bodies of the Russian Federation. It also defines the concept of poaching and its legal characteristics, highlights key challenges to countering poaching both within Russia and at the transnational level. Particular emphasis is placed on poaching across the Russia-China border adjacent to the Far Eastern and Siberian Federal Districts which ac-count for the rarest flora and fauna species in Russia. The paper outlines challenges to regulating federal anti-poaching legislation and current pitfalls in combating illicit trafficking of species at the state level. It considers op-posing viewpoints of researchers engaged in this field, their strengths and weaknesses, and suggests possible solutions to the identified problems. The paper concludes that methods of combating poaching are still underdeveloped and require certain legislative improvements at the level of national legislation and international cooperation.л.
... Selective logging is a key driver of degradation in Southeast Asia and Indigenous communities might be better able than PAs to restrict access to (illegal) logging companies, as some have with oil palm companies 41 . In many Indigenous communities across the world, there exist both formal and informal institutions for governing forest commons and resources 42 and monitoring forest access 43 . The customary forest tenure of Indigenous Peoples in Seram island of the Moluccas, Indonesia, involve custodians who coordinate forest use, understand the history of forest rights inheritance and can impose temporary bans on forest access 44 . ...
Full-text available
Area-based protection is the cornerstone of international conservation policy. The contribution of Indigenous Lands (ILs)—areas traditionally owned, managed, used or occupied by Indigenous Peoples—is increasingly viewed as critical in delivering on international goals. A key question is whether deforestation and degradation are reduced on ILs pan-tropically and their effectiveness relative to Protected Areas (PAs). We estimate deforestation and degradation rates from 2010 to 2018 across 3.4 millon km² (Mkm²) ILs, 2 Mkm² of PAs and 1.7 Mkm² of overlapped Protected Indigenous Areas (PIAs) relative to matched counterfactual non-protected areas. Deforestation is reduced in ILs relative to non-protected areas across the tropics, avoiding deforestation comparably to PAs and PIAs except in Africa, where they avoid more. Similarly, degradation is reduced in ILs relative to non-protected areas, broadly performing comparably to PAs and PIAs. Indigenous support is central to forest conservation plans, underscoring the need for conservation to support their rights and recognize their contributions.
... Relevant evidence that such approaches have value for both conservation and people is available from local examples from within Indonesian New Guinea showing that-at least in remote regions where government oversight has been largely absent-community-based oversight has been effective in protecting large areas of land and forest in a near pristine state . In addition, there is often strong support from traditional communities in Indonesian New Guinea for landuse planning, with official recognition, that designates large areas, as identified by the communities themselves, to be protected in perpetuity (Sheil and Boissière, 2006;Boissiere et al., 2010;Padmanaba et al., 2012;Sheil et al., 2015;Van Heist et al., 2015). ...
The rich forests of Indonesian New Guinea are understudied and threatened. We used satellite data to examine annual forest loss, road development and plantation expansion from 2001 to 2019, then developed a model to predict future deforestation. No previous studies have attempted such a detailed assessment of past and future deforestation. In 2019, 34.29 million hectares (Mha), or 83% of Indonesian New Guinea, supported old-growth forest. Over nineteen years, 2% (0.75 Mha) were cleared: 45% (0.34 Mha) converted to industrial plantations, roads, mine tailings, or other uses near cities; 55% (0.41 Mha) cleared by transient processes including selective natural timber extraction, inland water bodies-related processes, fires, and shifting agriculture. Industrial plantations expanded by 0.23 Mha, with the majority (0.21 Mha; 28% of forest loss) replacing forests and reaching 0.28 Mha in 2019 (97% oil palm; 3% pulpwood). The Trans-Papua Highway, a ~4000 km national investment project, increased by 1554 km. Positive correlations between highway and plantations expansion indicate these are linked processes. Plantations and roads expanded rapidly after 2011, peaked in 2015/16, and declined thereafter. Indonesian government allocated 2.62 Mha of land for the development of industrial plantations (90% oil palm 10% pulpwood) of which 74% (1.95 Mha) remained forest in 2019. A spatial model predicts that an additional 4.5 Mha of forest could be cleared by 2036 if Indonesian New Guinea follows similar relationships to Indonesian Borneo. We highlight the opportunities for policy reform and the importance of working with indigenous communities, local leaders, and provincial government to protect the biological and cultural richness still embodied in this remarkable region.
... This means that the epistemic criteria for Yolŋu ranger work are operationalized through the conventions of protected area management M&E in a way that resists normative constructs of what Indigenous rangers should know and do. This has implications for M&E in other contexts involving Indigenous and other knowledge systems in which moving beyond traditional evaluation frameworks that "focus on improving and making decisions about projects and programs" (Patton 2015:18) is critical to the capacity of M&E processes to support systemic change, adaptation, learning, and empowerment (Sheil et al. 2015). ...
Full-text available
Over the past decade, there has been increased international interest in understanding and recognizing the contribution of Indigenous natural and cultural resource management, including Indigenous ranger work, to the sustainable management of social-ecological systems. In Australia, Indigenous rangers are responsible for managing land and seas that represent approximately 44% of the national protected area estate. Governments and other co-investors seek to evaluate this ranger work and its contribution to biodiversity conservation and other public goods. However, current monitoring and evaluation approaches are based in conceptions of value and benefits and do not capture the full range of contributions and meanings associated with this work. We present an empirical case study from northern Australia in which we explore how to properly account for the full complexity and richness of Indigenous ranger work. We demonstrate that the work of being an Indigenous ranger at a Yolŋu (Indigenous people of Northeast Arnhem Land) land and sea management organization, (the Dhimurru Aboriginal Corporation or Dhimurru), can be understood as three sets of knowledge practices: the practices of “knowing and being known by Yolŋu country;” the practices of “mobilizing the Dhimurru Vision Statement;” and, the practices of “being ralpa” (Ralpa is a Yolŋu concept that means being willing to work and prepared to take on leadership responsibilities.) We contend that these knowledge practices represent criteria for judging the effectiveness of Yolŋu ranger work. The Dhimurru knowledge community of senior Yolŋu landowners and their collaborators, judge the effectiveness of Yolŋu ranger work based on whether Yolŋu rangers demonstrate these practices. By integrating such criteria into Dhimurru’s formal monitoring and evaluation processes endorsed by its government funding partners, Dhimurru can more effectively and fully demonstrate the contribution of Yolŋu rangers to the Yolŋu vision for ecologically and culturally sustainable management of the Dhimurru Indigenous Protected Area in the Northern Territory as part of Australia’s national conservation estate.
Over fifty years of global conservation has failed to bend the curve of biodiversity loss, so we need to transform the ways we govern biodiversity. The UN Convention on Biological Diversity aims to develop and implement a transformative framework for the coming decades. However, the question of what transformative biodiversity governance entails and how it can be implemented is complex. This book argues that transformative biodiversity governance means prioritizing ecocentric, compassionate and just sustainable development. This involves implementing five governance approaches - integrative, inclusive, adaptive, transdisciplinary and anticipatory governance - in conjunction and focused on the underlying causes of biodiversity loss and unsustainability. Transforming Biodiversity Governance is an invaluable source for academics, policy makers and practitioners working in biodiversity and sustainability governance. This is one of a series of publications associated with the Earth System Governance Project. For more publications, see This title is also available as Open Access on Cambridge Core.
Full-text available
Locally based monitoring is typically undertaken in areas in which communities have a close attachment to their natural resource base. We present a summary of work to develop a theoretical and practical understanding of locally based monitoring and we outline tests of this approach in research and practice over the past 20 years. Our tests show that locally based monitoring delivers credible data at local scale independent of external experts and can be used to inform local and national decision making within a short timeframe. We believe that monitoring conducted by and anchored in communities will gain in importance where scientist-led monitoring is sparse or too expensive to sustain and for ecosystem attributes in cases in which remote sensing cannot provide credible data. The spread of smartphone technology and online portals will further enhance the importance and usefulness of this discipline.
Full-text available
The methods used to value tropical forests have the potential to influence how policy makers and others perceive forest lands. A small number of valuation studies achieve real impact. These are generally succinct accounts supporting a specific perception. However, such reports risk being used to justify inappropriate actions. The end users of such results are rarely those who produced them, and misunderstanding of key details is a concern. One defense is to ensure that shortcomings and common pitfalls are better appreciated by the ultimate users. In this article, we aim to reduce such risks by discussing how valuation studies should be assessed and challenged by users. We consider two concise, high-profile valuation papers here, by Peters and colleagues and by Godoy and colleagues. We illustrate a series of questions that should be asked, not only about the two papers, but also about any landscape valuation study. We highlight the many challenges faced in valuing tropical forest lands and in presenting and using the results sensibly, and we offer some suggestions for improvement. Attention to complexities and clarity about uncertainties are required. Forest valuation must be pursued and promoted with caution. Copyright © 2002 by the author(s). Published here under licence by The Resilience Alliance.
Full-text available
Resilience and vulnerability represent two related yet different approaches to understanding the response of systems and actors to change; to shocks and surprises, as well as slow creeping changes. Their respective origins in ecological and social theory largely explain the continuing differences in approach to social-ecological dimensions of change. However, there are many areas of strong convergence. This paper explores the emerging linkages and complementarities between the concepts of resilience and vulnerability to identify areas of synergy. We do this with regard to theory, methodology, and application. The paper seeks to go beyond just recognizing the complementarities between the two approaches to demonstrate how researchers are actively engaging with each field to coproduce new knowledge, and to suggest promising areas of complementarity that are likely to further research and action in the field.
Full-text available
In 2009, the conference of the parties of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change recognized the need to engage communities and indigenous groups into the systems to monitor, report and verify the results of REDD+. Since then, many countries have started to prepare for REDD+ implementation. This article reviews early experiences under development in 11 projects financed by the Alliance Mexico REDD+ located in four Early Action Areas to identify the potential integration of Community Based Monitoring (CBM). The evaluation of the projects is made based on a multi-criteria analysis which considers the potential to produce information relevant for national monitoring systems and the prospects for sustained monitoring practices over time. Results indicate there are challenges to harmonizing monitoring practices and protocols between projects since activities proposed differ greatly from one project to another. Technical specifications for integrating local data into national systems are thus required. The results of these projects can help to identify best practices for planning and implementing REDD+. Findings indicate that in general, resources and capacities to gather, analyse and report information as part of CBM systems are in place in the projects, but usually these reside with non-local experts (i.e., NGOs and Academia); however, there are notable examples where these capacities reside in the communities. If national forest monitoring systems are geared to include information gathered through locally-driven processes REDD+ should promote activities that produce local benefits, but countries would need to build local capacities for managing and monitoring natural resources and would also need to create agreements for sharing and using local data. Otherwise, national systems may need to rely on monitoring practices external to communities, which depend on the continued availability of external financial resources.
Full-text available
Since the early design of activities to reduce emissions from deforestation and forest degradation in developing countries (REDD+) under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), the need to engage local communities and indigenous groups in monitoring and reporting has been recognized. REDD+ has advanced under the UNFCCC negotiations, but most countries still need to define formally what the role of communities in their national monitoring systems will be. Previous research and experiences have shown that local communities can effectively contribute in the monitoring of natural resources. This editorial introduces a Special Issue of Forests which discusses the implications of and potential for including community based monitoring (CBM) in monitoring and benefit-sharing systems in REDD+. It outlines the main points of the nine contributions to the Special Issue which cover a wide geographical area and report on projects and research which engages more than 150 communities from eight different countries from Africa, Asia and Latin America. The editorial summarizes how the articles and reports build further understanding of the potential of CBM to contribute to the implementation, monitoring and distribution of benefits in REDD+. It also discusses the results of an on-going opinion survey on issues related to CBM and its relation to benefit sharing, which indicates that there is still disagreement on a number of key elements.
Full-text available
In a classic study, Haley and Fessler showed that displaying subtle eye-like stimuli caused participants to behave more generously in the Dictator Game. Since their paper was published, there have been both successful replications and null results reported in the literature. However, it is important to clarify that two logically separable effects were found in their original experiment: watching eyes made the mean donation higher, and also increased the probability of donating something rather than nothing. Here, we report a replication study with 118 participants, in which we found that watching eyes significantly increased the probability of donating something, but did not increase the mean donation. Results did not depend on the sex of the participants or the sex of the eyes. We also present a meta-analysis of the seven studies of watching eye effects in the Dictator Game published to date. Combined, these studies total 887 participants, and show that although watching eyes do not reliably increase mean donations, they do reliably increase the probability of donating something rather than nothing (combined odds ratio 1.39). We conclude that the watching eyes effect in the Dictator Game is robust, but its interpretation may require refinement. Rather than making people directionally more generous, it may be that watching eyes reduce variation in social behavior.
Two new species of microhylid frogs assigned to the genus Callulops are described from the mountains of New Guinea. Callulops fojaensis sp. nov. is known only from mid-montane forest in the Foja Mountains of Papua Province, Indonesian New Guinea, and can be distinguished from congeners by the combination of moderate size, short limbs, slightly expanded finger and toe discs, and uniform brown dorsal and lateral colouration. Callulops mediodiscus sp. nov. is known from a single site in mid-montane forest in Southern Highlands Province, Papua New Guinea, and can be distinguished from all congeners by its wide finger and toe discs, moderate size and short advertisement call. Description of these two new frog species brings the number of Callulops known to 18, of which at least nine are only known from montane regions (>1000 m above sea level).
The first book to critically examine how monitoring can be an effective tool in participatory resource management, Negotiated Learning draws on the first-hand experiences of researchers and development professionals in eleven countries in Africa, Asia, and South America. Collective monitoring shifts the emphasis of development and conservation professionals from externally defined programs to a locally relevant process. It focuses on community participation in the selection of the indicators to be monitored as well as community participation in the learning and application of knowledge from the data that is collected. As with other aspects of collaborative management, collaborative monitoring emphasizes building local capacity so that communities can gradually assume full responsibility for the management of their resources. The cases in Negotiated Learning highlight best practices, but stress that collaborative monitoring is a relatively new area of theory and practice. The cases focus on four themes: the challenge of data-driven monitoring in forest systems that supply multiple products and serve diverse functions and stakeholders; the importance of building upon existing dialogue and learning systems; the need to better understand social and political differences among local users and other stakeholders; and the need to ensure the continuing adaptiveness of monitoring systems.
The fate of much of the world's terrestrial biodiversity depends upon our ability to improve the management of forest ecosystems that have already been substantially modified by humans. Monitoring is an essential ingredient in meeting this challenge, allowing us to measure the impact of different human activities on biodiversity and identify more responsible ways of managing the environment. Nevertheless many biodiversity monitoring programs are criticised as being little more than 'tick the box' compliance exercises that waste precious resources and erode the credibility of science in the eyes of decision makers and conservation investors. The purpose of this book is to examine the factors that make biodiversity monitoring programs fail or succeed. The first two sections lay out the context and importance of biodiversity monitoring, and shed light on some of the key challenges that have confounded many efforts to date. The third and main section presents an operational framework for developing monitoring programs that have the potential to make a meaningful contribution to forest management. Discussion covers the scoping, design and implementation stages of a forest biodiversity monitoring program, including defining the purpose, goals and objectives of monitoring, indicator selection, and the process of data collection, analysis and interpretation. Underpinning the book is the belief that biodiversity monitoring should be viewed not as a stand-alone exercise in surveillance but rather as an explicit mechanism for learning about how to improve opportunities for conservation. To be successful in this task, monitoring needs to be grounded in clear goals and objectives, effective in generating reliable assessments of changes in biodiversity and realistic in light of real-world financial, logistical and social constraints.
Abstract Some scholars have championed the view that small-scale societies are conservers or even creators of biodiversity. Others have argued that human populations have always modified their environments, often in ways that enhance short-term gains at the expense of environmental stability and biodiversity conservation. Recent ethnographic studies as well as theory from several disciplines allow a less polarized assessment. We review this body of data and theory and assess various predictions regarding sustainable environmental utilization. The meaning of the term conservation is itself controversial. We propose that to qualify as conservation, any action or practice must not only prevent or mitigate resource overharvesting or environmental damage, it must also be designed to do so. The conditions under which conservation will be adaptive are stringent, involving temporal discounting, economic demand, information feedback, and collective action. Theory thus predicts, and evidence suggests, that voluntary conservation is rare. However, sustainable use and management of resources and habitats by small-scale societies is widespread and may often indirectly result in biodiversity preservation or even enhancement via creation of habitat mosaics.