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Trade-offs between multifunctionality and profit in tropical smallholder landscapes

Land-use transitions can enhance the livelihoods of smallholder farmers but potential economic-ecological trade-offs remain poorly understood. Here, we present an interdisciplinary study of the environmental, social and economic consequences of land-use transitions in a tropical smallholder landscape on Sumatra, Indonesia. We find widespread biodiversity-profit trade-offs resulting from land-use transitions from forest and agroforestry systems to rubber and oil palm monocultures, for 26,894 aboveground and belowground species and whole-ecosystem multidiversity. Despite variation between ecosystem functions, profit gains come at the expense of ecosystem multifunctionality, indicating far-reaching ecosystem deterioration. We identify landscape compositions that can mitigate trade-offs under optimal land-use allocation but also show that intensive monocultures always lead to higher profits. These findings suggest that, to reduce losses in biodiversity and ecosystem functioning, changes in economic incentive structures through well-designed policies are urgently needed.
Journal Article
Type of thesis
Grass, I., Kubitza, C., Krishna, V. V., Corre, M. D., Musshoff, O., Puetz, P., … Wollni, M. (2020). Trade-offs between multifunctionality and profit in tropical smallholder landscapes. Nature Communications, 11(1). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41467-020-15013-5
Nature Publishing Group
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