Linking livelihoods and land through ecosystem service interactions in a tropical landscape in México
Land use targeted towards maximizing a single provisioning ecosystem service causes declines in supporting and regulating ecosystem services at the cost of livelihood diversification, ecosystem resilience and human well-being. For holistic land use decisions thorough understanding is required on complex socio-environmental relationships controlling the status and long-term availability of interacting ecosystem service types.
In a watershed landscape in tropical Mexico, we explored how certain livelihoods and their land use systems influence the relationships among multiple ecosystem services by comparing diverse production systems (sugarcane and orange plantations, milpa-corn) and secondary forest.
We applied interviews to farmers to determine livelihoods and associated land use/management types. For each land use type, we examined 14 variables related to fundamental soil and hydrological functions, crop production and cultural aspects corresponding to supporting, regulating, provisioning and cultural services, respectively. To assess if current land use practices cause trade-offs or synergies among different ecosystem service types, we conducted Spearman correlation analysis considering all ecosystem service variables. To further examine how livelihood diversification was linked to landscape multifunctionality, we used principal component analysis and then determined ecosystem service bundles with cluster hierarchical analysis. We generated maps of the spatial distribution and concentration of these 13 ecosystem services types.
We identified three livelihoods in this tropical watershed landscape: Sugarcane producers and diversifiers both maintain traditional production systems (sugarcane and/or Milpa-corn) and secondary forest, and semi-proletarianized citrus growers specialized in cash-crop (citrus) production. While specialized citrus farmers aim at maximizing orange production, citrus orchards exhibit a clear tradeoff between provisioning services and almost all supporting, regulating and cultural ecosystem services. The Milpa system is an important pool of cultural ecosystem services and additional products for subsistence. Since citrus growers have only access to small agricultural land as a result of a long-term inheritance process, they decided to give up the Milpa systems. Secondary forests and traditionally managed (no tillaging) sugarcane plantations deliver important supporting and regulating services and thus offer a wide variety of extra products that enhance human welfare. Drivers responsible for the observed ecosystem service interactions and trade-offs originate from complex interactions among dynamic socio-economic, socio-cultural, socio-political and biophysical factors concomitantly influencing livelihood development and diversification. Hence, ecosystem management aimed at stewarding ecosystem services requires multicausal analyses of the origins and dynamics of landscape heterogeneity to increase its long-term multifunctionality and human well-being.