In recent decades there has been a push to try and include communities in natural resource conservation initiatives. This thesis uses a multidisciplinary approach and a series of case studies in the Ecuadorian Amazon to look at the role that common property regimes can have in conservation initiatives. Results show that community managed forests can have positive conservation outcomes. Local communities, however, will often integrate into local market economies creating significant tradeoffs between livelihoods, local management decisions and natural resource conservation. Nonetheless, resource scarcity can drive the evolution of local resource management institutions and communities have the potential to accurately monitor changes in natural resources. These results suggest that local communities have the potential to play an important role in conservation practices but that local economic incentives can affect the way in which communities manage their resources.