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Ecosystem services and food security: assessing inequality at community, household and individual scales

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  10 June 2016

Department of Environmental Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MAUSA Harvard University Center for the Environment, Cambridge, MAUSA
Department of Human Ecology, University of California, Davis, CAUSA
Department of Environmental Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MAUSA
Department of Environmental Health, Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Boston, MAUSA Harvard University Center for the Environment, Cambridge, MAUSA
*Correspondence: Christopher D. Golden e-mail:


Wildlife populations provide harvestable meat to people and contribute to local food security. Throughout the year, and particularly at times of agricultural food shortages, wildlife and other wild foods play a critical role in supporting food security and enhancing local human nutrition. We explored the distribution of food security benefits of agricultural food production and a particular ecosystem provisioning service – wildlife harvest in the Makira Natural Park (MNP) of Madagascar – at community, household and individual levels. We found strong variation in wildlife consumption both among communities and among households and less variation among individuals within households. Mean household wildlife consumption in the target community was 10 kg per year ranging by approximately two orders of magnitude, with poorer and more food insecure households more reliant on wildlife for food. Meats (including wildlife) appeared to be evenly distributed within households, unaffected by age, sex, birth order and body weight, while other foods (including stew, rice and other staples) appeared to be allocated based on body mass. Reductions in wildlife consumption cause increased risk of food insecurity and specific nutritional deficiencies. The findings from our multilevel study suggest that disaggregated analysis that merges ecosystem services theory and the microeconomics of resource allocation allows for a more accurate valuation approach.

Copyright © Foundation for Environmental Conservation 2016 

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