Public perception of ecosystem service functions of peri - urban forest for sustainable management in Ogun State
Forest ecosystems and landscapes are under strong and multiple pressures that challenge their capacities to continue to deliver the many and critical environmental goods and services that all life systems require. This study was therefore carried out to evaluate public perceptions on the ecosystem services (ES) of Arakanga Forest Reserve in order to provide relevant information for successful initiatives towards a sustainable management of Arakanga Forest Reserve. Data were collected from two categories of respondents, those living within 1 km radius of Arakanga Forest Reserve (Neighbourhood) and those living more than 1 km radius (Non-Neighbourhood) with the aid of pretested questionnaire. Two hundred (200) questionnaires were used, 100 for each category of respondents. Simple Descriptive Statistical tools such as frequencies, means, percentages and tables were used to summarise the data. In order to determine the way ES were perceived by the people, five positive and five negative validated perceptional statements against a 5- point Likert scale (LS) ranging from strongly agreed (5), agreed (4) undecided (3), disagreed (2) and strongly disagreed (1) for positive and vice-versa was administered to the people. Class boundaries of means of LS were used to draw inferences on respondents’ perceptions. The class boundaries are: < 1.0 < 1.5 = strongly disagreed; ≥ 1.5 < 2.5 = disagreed; ≥ 2.5 < 3.5= undecided; ≥ 3.5 < 4.5 = and agreed ≥ 4.5 ≤ 5.0 = strongly agreed. Male respondents were in the majority (52%) with a modal age group of 30 - 44 years (37%). Majority of them were married (73%) with between four - six people in the household, an indication that forest ES utilization can be transferred to the new generation. A high level of formal education (95%) was recorded, this ranged from primary to tertiary education and a modal income of N18, 000 annually, (N = naira) (1USD= N160). The categories of ES derived from Arakanga Forest Reserve include food, fuel, fibre and environmental services such as watershed regulation and recreation. Inferences from class boundaries of means from LS analysis showed that respondents agreed with the provisioning, regulating, supporting and cultural services of Arakanga Forest Reserve (Mean class boundaries: 3.9 - 4.2). This is an indication that the people were not averse to the continuous existence of Arakanga Forest Reserve because of its positive externalities. Conclusively, with more public enlightenment, management strategies could be fashioned out involving all stakeholders for sustained provision of ES in Arakanga Forest Reserve.
Key words: Forest, ecosystem services, public perceptions.