Forest restoration as a land use pattern: nature-based tourism in the Andean Choco Biosphere Reserve, northwestern Ecuador

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Jorje Ignacio Zalles

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Forest restoration entails change in land use patterns. Land use change results from circumstance-specific combinations of individual agency, institutional framework, and structural context. Nature-based tourism is recognized as an indirect economic incentive for biological conservation, thus a potential driver for land uses that are favorable to forest restoration. This study analyzes the influence of nature-based tourism on land use decisions aimed at forest restoration in the Mindo sector of the Andean Choco Biosphere Reserve, in northwestern Ecuador. Semi-structured interviews were used to determine the main decision variables explaining landowner participation in a local government-led forest restoration program. Results indicate that improvement of tourism attractiveness was a main factor in the corresponding land use decision. Open interviews with key informants allowed description of the institutional framework associated with nature-based tourism in Mindo, as well as identification of institutional aspects most relevant to the relationship between tourism and land use. Finally, the structural context within which land-use decisions operate in the region was established by means of historical document review, coupled with analysis of land-use and socioeconomic indicators. Together, individual land use decisions aimed at forest restoration for tourism purposes, taken within an institutional framework that is favorable to biological conservation, and immersed in a structural context that is conducive to the sector’s consolidation as an income generator, make nature-based tourism a driver for land use change and forest restoration in the Andean Choco Biosphere Reserve. The utility of approaching forest restoration from the perspective of land use patterns is thereby demonstrated.

Resource Type:
Conference Presentation, SER2021

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