Reducing risks by transforming landscapes: Cross-scale effects of land-use changes on ecosystem services
Globally, anthropogenic environmental change is exacerbating the already vulnerable conditions of many people and ecosystems. In order to obtain food, water, raw materials and shelter, rural people modify forests and other ecosystems, affecting the supply of ecosystem services that contribute to livelihoods and well-being. Despite widespread awareness of the nature and extent of multiple impacts of land-use changes, there remains limited understanding of how these impacts affect trade-offs among ecosystem services and their beneficiaries across spatial scales. We assessed how rural communities in two forested landscapes in Indonesia have changed land uses over the last 20 years to adapt their livelihoods that were at risk from multiple hazards. We estimated the impact of these adaptation strategies on the supply of ecosystem services by comparing different benefits provided to people from these land uses (products, water, carbon, and biodiversity), using forest inventories, remote sensing, and interviews. Local people converted forests to rubber plantations, reforested less productive croplands, protected forests on hillsides, and planted trees in gardens. Our results show that land-use decisions were propagated at the landscape scale due to reinforcing loops, whereby local actors perceived that such decisions contributed positively to livelihoods by reducing risks and generating co-benefits. When land-use changes become sufficiently widespread, they affect the supply of multiple ecosystem services, with impacts beyond the local scale. Thus, adaptation implemented at the local-scale may not address development and climate adaptation challenges at regional or national scale (e.g. as part of UN Sustainable Development Goals or actions taken under the UNFCCC Paris Agreement). A better understanding of the context and impacts of local ecosystem-based adaptation is fundamental to the scaling up of land management policies and practices designed to reduce risks and improve well-being for people at different scales.