After reading the article Canopy Walkways for Conservation: A

| October 22, 2018

After reading the article Canopy Walkways for Conservation: A Tropical Biologist’s Panacea or Fuzzy Metrics to Justify Ecotourism located in Doc Sharing, write a paper summarizing, agreeing, disagreeing, responding to, or reflecting on your personal thoughts and observations about the article. The paper must be double spaced, a minimum of two pages in length, and must follow APA format.SPECIAL SECTIONUsed with permission from the author.BIOTROPICA 41(5): 545548 200910.1111/j.1744-7429.2009.00562.xCanopy Walkways for Conservation: A Tropical Biologists Panacea or Fuzzy Metricsto Justify EcotourismMargaret Lowman1,2,31New College of Florida, 5800 Bayshore Road, Sarasota, FL 34243-2197, U.S.A.2TREE Foundation, PO Box 48839, Sarasota, FL 34230-5839, U.S.A.DESPITE EXTENSIVE SCIENTIFIC RESEARCH undertaken in tropical ecosystems over the last few decades, approximately half of tropical forests have been destroyed and rates of deforestation continue toaccelerate worldwide (Curran et al. 2004). Thousands of indigenouscultures and millions of local people need these deteriorating forestresources for their livelihoods, and the challenges of tropical forestconservation looms as a global priority (Laurance & Perez 2006).Meanwhile, the conventional metric used to gauge the success ofprofessional academics in tropical biology is the publication of technical papers, which seems all too disconnected from the metrics offorest conservation. A new consciousness is sorely needed (Leisero¨witz & Fernandez 2008; but see Webb 2005, Buscher 2008). Mosttropical biologists admittedly enter the profession with a hope tocontribute to conservation of these systems, but their hundreds ofthousands of hours dedicated to field research and publications donot seem proportional to reversing conservation. If conventionalbusiness formulae were applied to tropical research, a likely outcomewould be downsizing the industry. New metrics that incorporateconservation benchmarks and facilitate sharing best practices between professional scientists and local stakeholders could foster forestconservation through actions that create sustainable economies.Canopy research appeared to offer an ideal case study to examine the socioeconomic plus scientic metrics of success, with itsspin-off ecotourism operations such as skywalks and ziplines providing data sets to quantify their benets to local stakeholders(Lowman 2004a). In short, can canopy access tools contribute tolocal economies and stimulate forest conservation? And second, canprojects that promote forest conservation provide acceptable metrics to gauge success among scientic researchers (see also Garnettet al. 2009, Sunderland et al. 2009)?Canopy ecology is a relatively new component of tropical forest research, with a toolkit of creative access techniques developedover the last two decades (Lowman 2004b). Business ventures involving canopy exploration are often incorporated into large-scaleeco-developments that include bird-watching, education-based nature tours, spas, and holistic medicine (Weaver 2001). These ecotourism opportunities usually meet with generic approval under theguise of green businesses. In this commentary, I grapple with theapparent oxymoron of working as a biological researcher yet buildReceived 12 January 2009; revision accepted 23 January 2009.3Corresponding author; e-mail: canopymeg@aol.coming canopy walkways to achieve conservation. Such structures arenot the conventional metrics of academic success, but can conservation actions gain traction as metrics of success in our admittedlyrigorous academic community of scientists?Ranging in cost from US$100 to US$3000/m, canopy walkways generate revenues for local stakeholders, and provide ecologyeducation to a broad visitorship (Lowman & Bouricius 1995, Lowman 2004b). Over 20 canopy walkways currently operate in tropical forests around the world serving research, education, andecotourism (Lowman 2009). Most sites are operated by localstakeholders without sophisticated spreadsheets to quantify theiroperations. Some sites received initial grants from NGOs or otherwell-meaning organizations in developed countries to undertakeconstruction in the name of conservation, and others attract operators from developed countries that spawn additional ecotourismactivities, thereby making the metrics of the canopy attraction impossible to analyze in isolation.The rst canopy walkway in the world was built in LamingtonNational Park, Queensland, Australia, at OReillys Rain ForestLodge (Lowman et al. 2006). In a developed country such as Australia, one would expect a rigorous business plan calculating theeconomic success of this structure. However, when asked to providemetrics about the economic success of his skywalk, owner PeterOReilly commented, I am certain that the canopy walkway contributed greatly to the increase in visitors to our lodge. But it is impossible to isolate the walkway from other amenities that were builtsimultaneouslyimprovements to the road, our liquor license,expanding the dining services, and better marketing. We could notcreate metrics to assess it (canopy walkway) in isolation, but welocals felt strongly that it was critical to our ecotourism success.In short, the Australians could not generate enough data tosatisfy even a brief note in a journal, but yet they are intuitivelycondent that their walkways aided conservation. If an expertly runbusiness in a developed country cannot provide accurate metricsabout the exact formulae for commercializing rain forest conservation, then how can indigenous villages do so?Today, over 1.6 billion people from all cultures and all walksof life participate in different avenues of tourism, spending overUS$2 trillion (Hawkins & Lamoureux 2001). On a global scale,ecotourism is growing because of its international appeal, educational opportunities, and social appeal to advocate a conservationethic. As human-dominated ecosystems become the norm,r 2009 The Author(s)Journal compilation r 2009 by The Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation545SPECIAL SECTION546Lowmanecological research and its education outreach through ecotourismbecome critical at both continental and local scales to inspire thesustainability of earths dwindling resources (Palmer et al. 2005,Peters et al. 2008). Canopy research promotes forest conservation atthree scales: through biological discoveries published in the scientic literature, by offering innovative sustainable economic opportunities for local stakeholders such as canopy walkways, andthrough educating a broader visitorship through ecotourism. Despite the existence of over 20 canopy walkways around the world forresearch and education, and several dozen more for ecotourismalone, accurate records are not often kept by local operators. In addition, local labor and materials mask the true costs of the structure;other amenities cloud the ability to isolate economic metrics; andthe broader-scale impact of educating a global audience of visitors is¨not easy to quantify. Although Buscher (2008) reminded conservation biologists not to ignore their rigorous empirical researchtraining, should we sometimes rejoice about conservation winssuch as canopy walkways despite a lack of rigorous data sets to justify their existence (see also Sunderland et al. 2009)?In 1993, a canopy walkway was constructed along the Sucasaritributary of the Rio Napo downstream from Iquitos, Peru(Table 1). Hardwood canopy trees were utilized as supports for aseries of 13 connected bridges, at a cost of approximately US$100/m(P. Jenson, pers. comm.). With the use of local labor and materials, this cost was signicantly less expensive than structures builton telephone poles or other imported structures that can cost up toUS$3000/m (http://www.canopyconstruction.com). ExploramaLodges, partnering with CONEPEC (a Peruvian conservationgroup), maintains this canopy walkway as an ecotourism and research destination called Amazon Conservatory for Tropical Studies (ACTS). In 2007, 2625 eco-tourists paid US$150 to tour thecanopy, totaling US$393,750 (with approximately US$30/persondistributed to travel agents). The remaining prot (estimated atUS$315,000) and associated services provided jobs for approximately 212 local villagers representing over 100 families (P. Becur& P. Jenson, owners of Explorama Lodge, pers. comm.). Over8000 visitors come to Explorama annually; by rough calculations atUS$150 per visitor, gross revenues for the walkways exceed US$1million. This not only employs local people but also provides careerlivelihoods from ecotourism instead of logging (Fig. S1). Evenmore difcult to quantify, this cadre of international visitors returnto their home countries with a rst-hand education about the complexity of tropical rain forests. The ACTS walkway also inspired amajor science education program called the Jason Expedition,where approximately 3 million middle school students around theworld studied canopy ecology via satellite technologies (Lowmanet al. 2006; http://www.jason.org). As a consequence, the ACTSwalkway is now the destination of choice of countless teachers,families, and school groups (http://www.environmentalexpeditions.org). The metrics are fuzzy, but the conservation success isevident.AMAZON CASE STUDYIn the Amazon, tropical rain forests are disappearing at unprecedented rates. But the Amazon provides essential ecosystem serviceson a global scale: pollination, ood control, carbon sequestration,regulation of fresh water, regulation of atmosphere, amelioration ofdisease, genetic libraries that include food and other biodiversity,and prevention of soil erosion (Foley et al. 2007). Almost 10 yr ago,nearly 15 percent of the Amazon basin was already cleared (Nepstadet al. 1999). Perhaps more urgently than other tropical forests, economic incentives for local stakeholders to conserve forests in theAmazon represent a win-win.TABLE 1. Metrics for three canopy walkways illustrating the variability with regard to obtaining accurate metrics from which to gauge success. Potential benets: 1 = conservation education; 2 = income; 3 = employs locals; 4 = reduced logging or clearing pressure. Potential drawbacks: 1 = destruction of local ecosystems; 2 = extinctionof species; 3 = addition of human infrastructure; 4 = no drawbacks observed.SiteSamoaPeruFloridaUS$75,000240/yrUS$250,0004 8000/yrUS$120,0004 298,749/yrUS$12,000aUS$1.2 millionb2, 3, 41, 2, 3, 4US$750,000cDrawbacks443ReferenceElmqvist et al. (1993)P. Jensen & P. Betencur, pers. comm.Lowman et al. (2006)Initial costVisitorsRevenue/yrMajor benetsa1, 4Walkway organizer Paul Cox estimated a revenue of US$12,000/yr. With a fee of US$50 per visitor, the estimated number of visitors was calculated based at 240.bExplorama charges US$150 for a one-day trip to their walkway. If 8000 lodge visitors paid this fee, the revenue would be US$1.2 million. But again, this revenue hasmany ancillary costs attached. A better metric might be to cite employees, 200 families who do not earn their living by cutting down trees to provide their food or earntheir money to survive (Peter Jensen, co-owner of Explorama Lodges).cApproximately 300,000 visitors come to the park in 2005; if each car holds two visitors, the revenue (at US$5/carload) is estimated at US$750,000. Obviously manyfactors such as weather and family size and marketing will inuence these estimates. Hence, even at a state park in a developed country, it is difcult if not impossible tocalculate the isolated economic benets of one ecotourism operation in the midst of a region with existing tourism. In short, rigorous metrics are hard to come by.SPECIAL SECTIONCommentaryFLORIDA CASE STUDYNorth Americas rst public canopy walkway was constructed inFlorida in 2000 (Table 1). Similar to tropical rain forests, the subtropical hammocks of Florida are declining due to human activities,and hence conservation education was an important goal. Built in10 d, the Myakka River Canopy Walkway cost US$90,000 for a33 m bridge (approximately US$3000/m) connecting two platforms, plus approximately US$30,000 for a tower (Lowman et al.2006). Maintenance has been minimal with the exception of grafticleaning (P. Benschoff, pers. comm.). Perhaps the biggest success ofthe Florida canopy project was a signicant increase in park visitorship. During a decade where visitors to both state and national parksdeclined precipitously (Louv 2005), the Myakka state park visitorship increased by at least 26 percent from 236,552 in 1995 to298,749 in 2005, including repeated visits by local schools,churches, and other citizen groups to the walkway. On weekends,volunteers have logged up to 200 canopy visitors/h (totaling overUS$500 in gate fees at US$5/car and assuming two people/carload).Despite best efforts, even Florida state government math was fuzzyfor the skywalk. Issues such as staff shortfalls, weather, cutbacks inpark infrastructure, and inability to separate walkway visitors fromsherman or boaters precluded a rigorous analysis. Like its Australiancounterpart, the Myakka walkway has proven enormously successfulin education outreach (http://www.treefoundation.org).Despite its shortfall in rigorous metrics, canopy access has beenembraced by local stakeholders as an economic opportunity forforest conservation. Two priorities are important as tropical forestscontinue to undergo deterioration: (1) promote a new ethic,whereby biologists are encouraged to contribute their tools and discoveries to inspire sustainable economic ventures for local stakeholders; and (2) congure metrics for success in conservationactivities in terms of socioeconomic as well as scientic acceptance.When constructed and operated locally, canopy access systems mayinspire useful outcomes: to facilitate critical ecological research, tobolster local economy, to inspire environmental education, and ultimately to encourage forest conservation at both local and globalscales.ACKNOWLEDGMENTSThanks are due to the operators of the canopy access sites in Western Samoa, Peru, and Florida who scrambled to collect some metrics for their ecotourism operations, despite the enormity of thisrequest. Also, thanks to the following community foundations:TREE, Triad, Gulf Coast, Selby, Schoenbaum, and Seacology, whohave funded canopy walkways and outreach to foster conservationand education in local communities.SUPPORTING INFORMATIONAdditional Supporting Information may be found in the onlineversion of this article:FIGURE S1. Willy Sanchez Flores, a local villager from the RioNapo region in Peru, supports his family with employment as a547fulltime guide for a growing local ecotourism industry centeredaround the canopy walkway.Please note: Wiley-Blackwell are not responsible for the content orfunctionality of any supporting materials supplied by the authors.Any queries (other than missing material) should be directed to thecorresponding author for the article.LITERATURE CITED¨BUSCHER, B. 2008. Conservation, neoliberalism, and social science: A criticalreection on the SCB 2007 annual meeting in South Africa. Conserv.Biol. 22: 229231.CURRAN, L. M., S. N. TRIGG, A. K. MCDONALD, D. 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