An ecological and socio-economic analysis of biodiversity conservation of East African wetlands
East African papyrus Cyperus papyrus swamps have undergone wide-scale
drainage and are used intensively by resources harvesters. They also support a
unique biota, notably six inadequately protected bird species. In this thesis, the
results of a study examining the socio-economic benefits of and avian responses to
wetland drainage and resource use are presented.
The species richness of bird communities in heavily disturbed papyrus stands was
higher than in nearby stands that were not disturbed, but contained fewer species
and individuals of specialised species. However, even the six most specialised
species were tolerant of low-intensity disturbance. Using a time-series of Landsat
ETM images covering southern Uganda and adjoining countries wetlands were
mapped and regional variations in drainage quantified. Using land coverage and
occurrence data, the abundance and decline of bird species in c. 30,000 Eas1
African wetlands was predicted. The species studied were found to have declined
substantially more than predicted by ecological theory because population densitie~
were higher in regions in which most drainage has occurred. Although averag(
drainage was only c. 9% over 15 years, drainage in regions in which bird densit)
was highest exceeded 75% over this period.
The socio-economic value of crops grown in reclaimed swamps and goods derive(
from swamps were determined by interviewing rural householders. Result:
indicated that although drainage always served to reduce the net present valU!
(NPV) of goods derived from swamps, NPV was maximised when 25-30% of th
swamp was used for harvesting. Drainage and harvesting exceeded these levels, il
part because property rights structures have shifted from common ownership tl
open-access and in part because income equality is low and poorer people are mor
inclined to use and drain swamps. The results of this study suggested that ther
were similarities between swamp use that maximises socio-economic benefits an
management that favours specialist bird species. This would imply th,
conservation action designed to protect papyrus avian communities could also be (
benefit to rural inhabitants using swamp resources. However mutual benefits t
birds and people are dependent upon reducing poverty.