Societal Recognition of Ecosystem Service Flows from Red Panda Habitats in Western Nepal

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The biologically and culturally diverse mountain habitats of the red panda (Ailurus fulgens) produce numerous ecosystem goods and services of global significance and satisfy the daily sustenance requirements and wellbeing of poor and vulnerable local communities. Most studies of ecosystem services conducted in Nepal have investigated community forest management and protected areas, largely in the lower hills and plains of the country. However, to conserve red pandas and associated biodiversity, knowledge is needed of the services instrumental to the livelihoods and wellbeing of people living in and around their Himalayan mountain habitats. Using case studies of 6 remote villages nearest to known red panda habitats inside and outside a protected area in western Nepal, this study reports on key informant interviews, focus group discussions, informal interactions, and participant observations to identify and categorize the goods and services provided by these habitats. Among the provisioning and cultural ecosystem goods and services obtained from red panda habitats, local people prioritized seasonal grazing in high-Altitude pastures, plant materials for medicines and food, wild plants for energy, transhumance culture, and religious interaction with nature. Their dependence on these services varied with season and location, with greater reliance on the services outside the protected areas. Some services used for valuing ecosystems, such as carbon storage and improved air and water quality and biodiversity, were only ever mentioned in a manner that would characterize them as cultural services provided by mountain deities. They only appear to be acknowledged as services with a use value by people from outside the region. This study suggests that understanding the value of the services provided to local communities could allow development of a policy that would also help conserve red pandas, particularly if income can be obtained for providing services to outsiders who have no perceived local economic benefit.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)R50-R60
Number of pages10
JournalMountain Research and Development
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2020

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