| By J. Oldekop, A. Bebbington, F. Berdel, N. Truelove, T. Wiersberg, R. Preziosi | Published in Biodiversity and Conservation 20(12): 2615-2626 |

Abstract: Assessing environmental change is often constrained by time, money and expertise. Community-based monitoring schemes attempt to address these limitations by providing local communities with the skills to measure changes in natural resources and contribute locally relevant information for local and regional management decisions. Despite the increasing popularity of community-based monitoring schemes, there is little information about the accuracy of the data they produce. In this study we use visual guides and hands-on training to teach groups of leaders from local communities in the Ecuadorian Amazon to measure the species richness of ferns. We compare their results to data obtained by experienced field biologists and show strong positive correlations in species richness estimates between the results obtained by groups receiving visual guides, groups receiving hands-on training and biologists. Our results show that, even with relatively little training, communities can use simple and cost-effective methodologies to yield data that accurately reflect levels of species richness.