Document Type



Master of Science (MS)


Environmental Studies

First Advisor's Name

David Bray

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Elvira Duran

Third Advisor's Name

Pallab Mozumder

Fourth Advisor's Name

Juliet Erazo


Community conservation, Sierra Norte, Oaxaca, Mexico, Common Property, Systematic Conservation Planning, Payments for Environmental Services, Political Ecology, Forest Governance, Environmental Justice, Protected Areas, Conservation and Voluntary Conserved Areas

Date of Defense



This thesis investigates how seven communities in a subregion of the Sierra Norte of Oaxaca are conserving high forest cover in the absence of national protected areas. To conduct this study I relied on archival research and the review of community documents, focus group interviews and land use transects to explore historical and current land use. I found that communities have conserved 88.34% of the subregion as forest cover, or 58,596 hectares out of a total territory of 66,264 hectares. Analysis suggests that the communities have undergone a historical transition from more passive conservation to more active, conscious conservation particularly in the last decade. This thesis further contends that communities deserve additional financial compensation for this active conservation of globally important forests for biodiversity conservation and that exercises in systematic conservation planning ignore the reality that existing biodiversity conservation in the subregion is associated with community ownership.





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