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Recognition of Mangrove Ecosystem Services by the Community and Policy Makers in the Gulf of Guayaquil, Ecuador


In 2000 Ecuador created the “Agreements of Sustainable Use and Custody of Mangroves” management for the local communities, helping to stop deforestation of mangroves caused by shrimp farming. With this program, the Ecuadorian government offers economic incentives to support community–based management without taking into consideration the essential role of ecosystem services. This policy fails to encourage the capacity of the communities to grow through monitoring of ecosystem services. This project seeks to understand which aspects of ecosystem services should be integrated into the sustainable management of mangroves in order to ensure that current policies lead to a desirable level of exploitation of resources and support mangrove conservation. A total of 96 surveys of stakeholders were conducted in three mangrove concessions in the Gulf of Guayaquil located in Cerrito de los Morrenos, Balao, and 6 de Julio. 96% of the stakeholders agreed that mangroves could deliver services or benefits, such as fisheries, nursery grounds for fishers, and climate regulation, which are the services that stakeholders wanted to maintain most. Additionally, 48% of the stakeholders believed that fishery services have declined in recent years. Stakeholders from 6 de Julio expressed significantly more value for a sense of place than those from the other two concessions. However, fishers in all three locations strongly valued maintaining mangroves for future generations. This study found that these two cultural services were most valued by fishing associations that have a strong leadership, motivated members, and a high level of involvement. This may happen because members of fishing associations which have a high participation level have internalized lessons from these activities. Thus, there is a strong case to include ecosystem services approaches in mangrove concession management. This is especially critical as resources continue to decline. Environmental policies should incorporate investment in participatory monitoring in order to strengthen social capital of mangrove concessions and create a strong platform for an adaptive approach to ecosystem management.

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