Profound knowledge of region-specific human ecological parameters is crucial for the sustainable utilization and conservation of tropical mountain forests in southern Ecuador, a region with heterogenic ethnic, socio-cultural and socio-economic structures. In order to satisfy the objectives of environmental protection on the one hand and the utilization claims of the local population on the other hand, detailed analysis of the following aspects is needed:
1. identification of sustainable land use options, especially regarding the use of non- timber forest products (NTFPs), and local agrobiodiversity;
2. investigation of traditional ecological knowledge, especially concerning the perception and evaluation of the natural environment by local ethnic groups;
3. analysis of livelihood strategies of small-scale farming households;
4. determination of the political and administrative use agreements including land tenure systems.
The ethnoecological approach, which has been applied in previous studies, will be maintained. Further, the research concept will be broadened towards human ecological and political ecological questions respecting livelihood strategies, land use conflicts and land tenure systems.