Mangrove conservation in Ecuador: A strategy to protect nature or to expand economic frontiers?

Authors: Melva Trevino-Pena*, Oregon State University
Topics: Cultural and Political Ecology, Development, Latin America
Keywords: conservation, extraction, Ecuador, mangroves, payments for ecosystem services (PES), political ecology
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/11/2018
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Gallier A, Sheraton, 4th Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Using the case of a national mangrove conservation initiative, this paper presents findings of data collected in the spring of 2017 in Esmeraldas, Ecuador to provide insight on the variegated conservation-extraction nexus. Mangrove forests in Ecuador have been reduced by approximately 70 percent since the late 1960s, coinciding with the introduction of industrial aquaculture. In 2014, as an attempt to address mangrove degradation, the state launched Socio Manglar ("Partner Mangroveā€), a conservation initiative modeled after the REDD+ approach of incentivizing the conservation and sustainable use of carbon-rich forests through performance-based payments. In rhetoric, the state is to protect mangrove forests by restricting further expansion of industrial activities in mangrove zones; in practice, the main strategy has been to restrict access of traditional mangrove users to these forests. In Ecuador, mangroves are public domain, and numerous communities adjacent to these forests have historically depended on mangrove resources to sustain their livelihoods. Accordingly, under the Socio Manglar scheme, local subsistence gatherers are among the most affected groups by these policies, while the aquaculture sector has remained largely untouched. Allegedly, the goal of this project is to conserve these threatened forests, however, the findings of this research indicate that this initiative was introduced to regulate the previously unregulated, open-resource mangroves, by incorporating the marketable ecosystem services provided by these forests into the national economy. Analyzing the actions taken by the Ecuadorean state agencies through this project, conservation can be better understood as an economic development scheme rather than an initiative to protect nature.

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