There is a need for a better understanding of the status of the environment. At the same time, concerns have been raised regarding alienation of the local populace from environmental decisions. One proposed solution is participatory environmental monitoring. When evaluating the usefulness of environmental monitoring, the focus may be on accuracy, as is usually done by scientists, or on efficiency in terms of conservation impact. To test whether investment in participatory biodiversity monitoring makes economic sense for obtaining data for management decisions, we compared the cost efficiency of participatory and conventional biodiversity monitoring methods in Philippine parks. We found that, from a government perspective, investment in monitoring that combines scientific with participatory methods is strikingly more effective than a similar level of investment in conventional scientific methods alone in generating conservation management interventions. Moreover, the local populace seemed to benefit from more secure de facto user rights over land and other resources. Participatory biodiversity monitoring not only represents a cost-effective alternative when conventional monitoring is impossible, but it is also an unexpectedly powerful complementary approach, capable of generating a much higher level of conservation management intervention, where conventional monitoring already takes place.
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