Integrating biocultural conservation and sociocultural valuation in the management of sacred forests: what values are important to the public?

Published online
03 Apr 2024
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
People and Nature

Ihemezie, E. J. & Albaladejo-García, J. A. & Stringer, L. C. & Dallimer, M.
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The need to recognise plural values and integrate these into policy design has long been of interest in nature conservation. However, we also need to understand whether and how different values are prioritised among diverse stakeholders. This is particularly important when indigenous and traditional cultures play a role in how land is managed and protected. Working in the sacred forests of Nigeria, we applied the principles of biocultural conservation and sociocultural valuation to understand the values that underpin people's relationship with nature and with other users of nature. We operationalised this by employing participatory workshop methods to identify multiple values of sacred forests, and conjoint analysis to elicit local people's value priorities and preferences for conserving sacred forests. We identified multiple values attributed to sacred forests, but the strongest preferences were for improved provision of medicinal values. However, preference heterogeneity analysis showed that sacred forests are valued differently among clusters of people with distinct sociodemographic profiles. Our findings also showed that the current management strategy for the conservation of sacred forests is inadequate to galvanise shared and collective responsibility from diverse stakeholders. Using a value-based approach, more robust management strategies that will yield high utility to the public were determined and recommended for implementation. Policy implications. Overall, our study demonstrates that sacred forests are valued in multiple ways above and beyond their role in a cultural belief system. New strategies are therefore needed to effectively manage and conserve them. We recommend a plural approach to the conservation of sacred forests that will incorporate multiple values. This can be achieved by integrating biocultural conservation and sociocultural valuation. Read the free Plain Language Summary for this article on the Journal blog.

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