Here are some recent results:
In the first study of its kind, Chhatre and Arun Agrawal of the University of Michigan
in Ann Arbor compared forest ownership with data on carbon
sequestration, which is estimated from the size and number of trees in
a forest. Hectare-for-hectare, they found that tropical forest under
local management stored more carbon than government-owned forests.
There are exceptions, says Chhatre, "but our findings show that we can
increase carbon sequestration simply by transferring ownership of
forests from governments to communities".
One reason may be that locals protect forests best if
they own them, because they have a long-term interest in ensuring the
forests' survival. While governments, whatever their intentions,
usually license destructive logging, or preside over a free-for-all in
which everyone grabs what they can because nobody believes the forest
will last (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, DOI: 10.1073/pnas.0905308106).
The authors suggest that locals would also make a better job
of managing common pastures, coastal fisheries and water supplies. They
argue that their findings contradict a long-standing environmental
idea, called the "tragedy of the commons", which says that natural
resources left to communal control get trashed. In fact, says Agrawal,
"communities are perfectly capable of managing their resources
If you turn to the first page of the paper itself, the header reads:
Edited by Elinor Ostrom, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN, and approved September 4, 2009 (received for review July 22,
Of course this sort of result is inspired by her work as well. For the pointer I thank Andrew Grant.