Deriving income from the environment is clearly a powerful tool for improving the lives and livelihoods of individual families, but it can also bring significant societal benefits by making the distribution of wealth in a community more equal. If environmental income is not counted, the income distribution in rural communities is often significantly skewed, with a large gap between rich and poor. However, if environmental income is included in the income profile, the gap between rich and poor shrinks somewhat (Vedeld et al. 2004:36-38; Jodha 1986:1177). This supports the contention that ecosystem goods and services act as community assets, whose benefits reach beyond the individual household level. By providing an income source to those without other assets, ecosystems moderate and buffer the rural economy and increase economic equity. This provides another rationale for sound management of local ecosystems.
The use of natural resources and especially their degradation also has other implications for households and for communities. Rural communities are often bound together by shared professions based on nature