Assessing the relationship between poverty and biodiversity, within the context of land use change in the Solomon Islands
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There is convergence at the international level that conserving biodiversity can contribute to poverty alleviation, but empirical evidence for this relationship is scarce. In this thesis I assess the relationship between poverty and biodiversity, within the context of land use change, using a case-study from the Solomon Islands. This interdisciplinary study is based on both social and ecological data, primarily collected through focus groups, household surveys and avian line transect surveys. Poor households in Kahua were characterised by fewer members of a working age and fewer male members. They were also found to own fewer assets, which were correlated to lower land tenure. Natural resources, including wild foods, were a crucial resource for the consumption and income for poor households, with evidence of wild foods buffering shortfalls in household consumption. The livelihoods of poor households were dependent on natural resources, whereas wealthier households relied on cash crops. The lower involvement of poor households in cash cropping suggests that the poor have less access to such income sources, possibly through a lack of initial land holding assets. Cash crop areas of monoculture cocoa were the most intensive land use in Kahua and were found to be a poor habitat for many bird species, including most endemics. Overall, the relationship between poverty and biodiversity was found to be complex, context dependent and influenced by various social and institutional factors. Household inequalities in access to land and resources indicate that a social-ecological trap may be occurring for poorer households in Kahua, possibly perpetuated by the livelihoods of wealthier households. More research is required in translating the concept of social-ecological traps into management actions, but this thesis concludes that this could be a useful concept for improving poverty alleviation and biodiversity conservation initiatives.
Thesis, PhD Doctor of Philosophy
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