Trading carbon, biodiversity, and livelihoods: a landscape scale analysis of ecosystems services and trade-offs in land-use policy

Law, Elizabeth (2015). Trading carbon, biodiversity, and livelihoods: a landscape scale analysis of ecosystems services and trade-offs in land-use policy PhD Thesis, School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland. doi:10.14264/uql.2015.446

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Author Law, Elizabeth
Thesis Title Trading carbon, biodiversity, and livelihoods: a landscape scale analysis of ecosystems services and trade-offs in land-use policy
School, Centre or Institute School of Biological Sciences
Institution The University of Queensland
DOI 10.14264/uql.2015.446
Publication date 2015-04-10
Thesis type PhD Thesis
Open Access Status Other
Supervisor Kerrie Wilson
Brett Bryan
Thilak Mallawaarachchi
Paul Dargusch
Total pages 357
Language eng
Subjects 1402 Applied Economics
0502 Environmental Science and Management
Formatted abstract
  Conservation and economic paradigms are shifting in recognition of the interdependencies among environmental, economic, and social systems. This shift is changing philosophies on why, where, and how we conserve nature. In this thesis I develop and apply novel approaches to plan for diverse objectives with the goal of enhancing the effectiveness, efficiency, and equitability of landscape management for multiple stakeholders.
   Forest carbon policy epitomises the challenges of interdependent environmental, economic, and social concerns. The ideals of REDD+ are inherently appealing, but in practice it presents a minefield of vagaries, unintended consequences, and trade-offs. Current forest-carbon policy fails to reflect the multiplicit social values of different management actions. As a solution, in chapter 2 I propose a policy framework that distinguishes distinct outcomes, promotes more effective incentives by better reflecting and leveraging from stakeholder values, and allows faster adaptation of policy to an uncertain future.
   Chapters 3-7 of my thesis develop a case study in a REDD+ priority region, the Ex-Mega Rice Project (EMRP) of Central Kalimantan, Indonesia. Restoration and development of the EMRP is of global interest due to substantial carbon emissions from degraded peatland, charismatic biodiversity, and a rapidly developing palm-oil industry. Understanding spatial distributions of environmental values is needed for their sustainable management. However, different stakeholders often perceive these values in different ways. In chapter 3, I explore the carbon, biodiversity, and development implications of seven proxies for carbon dynamics. I find above-ground biomass is not an adequate surrogate for emission dynamics, and current regulation limiting development on peatland may fail to incentivise peatland restoration. My results highlight that the most appropriate carbon proxy may not be the most accurate one, but rather the one that best incentivizes positive actions in suitable locations.
   REDD+ landscapes need to be managed for multiple social, economic, and environmental goals. In chapter 4 I quantify and map key policy-relevant ecosystem-service values, and evaluate the expected outcomes of four future land-use scenarios in the EMRP. I find that the prospective landuse plans will be considerable improvements on current land use, but identify several potential trade-offs. For example, oil-palm development may push smallholder agriculture into low productivity areas, and negatively impact biodiversity and carbon outcomes. This highlights that for effective, efficient, and equitable management these local-scale trade-offs will need to be carefully considered in future land-use planning for the EMRP.
   Estimating potential outcomes of different land-use policies can highlight where we may anticipate conflicts. Land-sharing and land-sparing strategies are embodied in agricultural and  environmental policies currently applied in landscapes worldwide, and their relative benefits and shortcomings have recently been the focus of debate. However, generalised rules of preference for either policy are complicated due to context specificity. Further, outcomes for both ecological and economic objectives have been rarely evaluated at a landscape scale. In chapter 5 I reveal that even simplified models of land-sharing and sparing can produce complex results, and identify biophysical and socio-economic contextual variables that warrant inclusion in future assessments.
   In chapter 6 I provide the first analysis to include multiple ecosystem services in an evaluation of land-sharing and sparing strategies for a complex, heterogeneous landscape. I find that neither land-sharing nor sparing would provide substantial benefits additional to that obtained from better land-use allocation from the outset. Further, no plan or policy scenario assessed could satisfy all stakeholder targets. These results entice the question, if land uses could be optimised for each strategy, which would give the best outcomes? And is simultaneous achievement of all stakeholder targets even possible in the EMRP? In chapter 7, I explore these questions by identifying the fundamental trade-offs between multiple objectives under land -sharing, land-sparing, and mixed strategy scenarios. Full achievement of objectives is not possible under current conditions, but in contrast to the outcomes of earlier models, land sharing offered the best prospects and potentially could satisfy all stakeholders if land allocation is optimised.
   Overall, my thesis highlights that land-use problems and concepts of value are complex, controversial, and continually evolving. I have developed novel methods for understanding, quantifying, and managing trade-offs between stakeholders in multifunctional landscapes. My results highlight that the best metrics and incentives will be those that instigate positive actions in appropriate places, targets need to be both appropriate and achievable given biophysical and socioeconomic landscape contexts and constraints, and trade-offs are common but perhaps not insurmountable. As a global community, we need to rethink our aims and approaches towards carbon emissions mitigation, economic development, and biodiversity conservation. In the EMRP, this could include a move away from emphasising carbon and towards developing livelihoods. My results suggest carbon benefits will follow. More broadly, we need to refine our concepts of efficiency, equity, and social value, and develop a more nuanced, mechanistic understanding of these concepts in order to effectively incorporate them into future land-use policies and planning.
Keyword Biodiversity
Ecosystem services
Land-use policy

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Created: Sat, 28 Mar 2015, 10:14:35 EST by Elizabeth Law on behalf of Scholarly Communication and Digitisation Service