This study examines the relative benefits (provisioning) and importance (regulating and cultural) of forest ecosystem services to households in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) region of Bangladesh. Our results from 300 household interviews in three rural locations stratified by wealth shows that wealth levels of the respondents play a key role in explaining variations in the perceptions and use of forest ecosystem services. Considering the direct benefits, the importance of provisioning ecosystem services (i.e. fuel wood, food, timber, bamboo, thatch grass and fodder) varies according to their relative use (i.e. subsistence and cash income) among households of different wealth groups. No significant difference was found in perceptions of indirect benefits of forest ecosystem services of water purification, regulating air quality, crop pollination, soil fertility, aesthetic and spiritual services. But the higher wealth groups perceived soil protection, soil fertility, pest and disease control as important for crop production as they have large landholdings for agricultural uses and tree cover. This study suggests local wealth conditions of the rural households characterise the demand of the use and perceived importance of forest ecosystem services. Differences in levels of wealth and ecosystem service provision imply careful consideration of social and economic factors in decision-making and making appropriate interventions for forest and tree management. The ecosystem services approach appears to be useful in capturing the broader diversity of benefits of forests and trees (i.e. material and non-material) as well as in supporting their integrated management at the landscape scale.
- Use and perceived importance of forest ecosystem services in rural livelihoods of Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh