Protected areas (including areas that are nominally fully protected and those managed for multiple uses) encompass about a quarter of the total tropical forest estate. Despite growing interest in the relative value of community-managed lands and protected areas, knowledge about the biodiversity value that each sustains remains scarce in the biodiversity-rich tropics. We investigated the species occurrence of a suite of mammal and pheasant species across four protected areas and nearby community-managed lands in a biodiversity hotspot in northeast India. Over 2.5 years we walked 98 transects (half of which were resampled on a second occasion) across the four paired sites. In addition, we interviewed 84 key informants to understand their perceptions of species trends in these two management regimes. We found that protected areas had higher overall species richness and were important for species that were apparently declining in occurrence. On a site-specific basis, community-managed lands had species richness and occurrences comparable to those of a protected area, and in one case their relative abundances of mammals were higher. Interviewees indicated declines in the abundances of larger-bodied species in community-managed lands. Their observations agreed with our field surveys for certain key, large-bodied species, such as gaur and sambar, which generally occurred less in community-managed lands. Hence, the degree to which protected areas and community-managed lands protect wildlife species depends upon the species in question, with larger-bodied species usually faring better within protected areas.
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