Linking biological monitoring and wildlife ecotourism: a call for development of comprehensive community-based projects in search of sustainability

Abstract

Rural and indigenous communities are increasingly acknowledged as main actors of both wildlife ecotouristic and biological monitoring programs. Still, little consideration has been paid to the impacts of engaging in both types of community-based programs simultaneously. Here we discuss the connection that exists between biological monitoring and wildlife ecotourism and highlight the relevance of linking both activities through comprehensive community-based projects. We rely on birds and two emblematic experiences from indigenous communities of Mexico for setting up our recommendations. Then, we explore the relationships that exist among several components of wildlife ecotouristic and biological monitoring activities. Monitoring efforts might have positive impacts on wildlife ecotourism. Some areas of significance include the assessment of the effects of wildlife ecotourism on biodiversity, the determination of the spatial and temporal variation of the target biological populations, the estimation of the probabilities of observing target species, and the definition of management guidelines for conserving populations. In turn, wildlife ecotourism might benefit biological monitoring programs by providing funding, self-employment opportunities, contextualized objectives, and promoting the autonomy of communities. Our recommendations could be adjusted to different wildlife groups and diverse cultural contexts. We encourage the collaboration between wildlife ecotouristic and biological monitoring practitioners to foster comprehensive and self-sustaining community-based projects.

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Acknowledgments

We are grateful to several people, communities, and institutions for inspiring this manuscript, including Leonel Bautista, Tío Toño, Martha P. Lozada, Patricia Hernández, James Rodríguez Acosta, Laura Jiménez, Viviana Ruiz, Víctor Acosta, Capulálpam de Méndez, Santiago Xiacui, Santiago Comaltepec, La Trinidad de Ixtlán, Red de Monitoreo Comunitario Huilotl Toxtlan, Red de Monitores Comunitarios Pavón—Pavo de Cacho, UZACHI, and CONABIO. We thank two anonymous reviewers for their comments, as they improved the quality of our manuscript. We are thankful to Karen Purcell for editing the English grammar of this contribution. The present work is submitted as a partial fulfillment of the requisites for RO-A to obtain the Ph. D. degree in the Posgrado en Ciencias Biológicas of UNAM. As part of the Posgrado en Ciencias Biológicas of the UNAM, RO-A received a Ph. D. scholarship from CONACYT (327503).

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Correspondence to Rubén Ortega-Álvarez.

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Ortega-Álvarez, R., Calderón-Parra, R. Linking biological monitoring and wildlife ecotourism: a call for development of comprehensive community-based projects in search of sustainability. Environ Dev Sustain 23, 4149–4161 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10668-020-00761-7

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Keywords

  • Birdwatching
  • Biodiversity conservation
  • Citizen science
  • Community development
  • Participatory science
  • Tourism