Ole Mertz

Ole Mertz
University of Copenhagen · Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management

PhD

About

171
Publications
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Introduction
I am Professor of geography at the Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen. My research is focused on global environmental change, land use transitions and food security in the Global South. Specifically, I have worked for two decades on the dynamics of forest-agriculture frontiers looking at how changes in land use affect socio-economic and environmental systems. I also work with climate change adaptation and mitigation and have a general interest in the interface between development, environmental management and land use change. My regional specialization is Southeast Asia and West Africa, but I have also worked in the Pacific, East and Central Africa and Latin America.

Publications

Publications (171)
Article
The opportunities and challenges of ensuring participation and success of Integrated Conservation and Development Projects (ICDPs) have been fairly studied. However, it is not often well-established which institutional mechanisms explain the failure in meeting participatory and project goals. To fill this gap, we develop a telecoupling-inspired dia...
Article
This article illustrates the potential of the telecoupling framework to improve causal attribution in land system science (LSS). We shed light on the distinct analytical approaches that have characterized telecoupling research to date, how these can contribute to LSS with new insights, and whether such insights can improve causal attribution. By re...
Preprint
Full-text available
The consistent monitoring of trees both inside and outside of forests is key to mitigating climate change. Current monitoring systems either ignore trees outside forests or are too expensive to be applied consistently across countries on a repeated basis. Here we make use of the PlanetScope nanosatellite constellation, which delivers global very hi...
Article
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Although many land deals are never implemented to production stage, little is known about how abandoned projects affect local communities and the government agencies that promote them. This article analyses the effects on local actors, their land access, land use and tenure security of a large-scale bio-fuel land deal in northern Laos that a Chines...
Preprint
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Trees sustain livelihoods and mitigate climate change, but a predominance of trees outside forests and limited resources make it difficult for many developing countries to conduct frequent nation-wide inventories. Here, we propose a rapid and accurate approach to map the carbon stock of each individual tree and shrub at the national scale of Rwanda...
Article
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Land use is central to addressing sustainability issues, including biodiversity conservation, climate change, food security, poverty alleviation, and sustainable energy. In this paper, we synthesize knowledge accumulated in land system science, the integrated study of terrestrial social-ecological systems, into 10 hard truths that have strong, gene...
Article
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There have been many calls for an agroecological transition to respond to food shocks and crises stemming from conventional food systems. Participatory action research and transformative epistemologies, where communities are research actors rather than objects, have been proposed as a way to enhance this transition. However, despite numerous case s...
Article
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Despite the popularity of integrated conservation and development approaches to protected area management, adjacent communities increasingly face livelihood dilemmas. Yet understanding of how market processes and conservation enforcement interact to influence livelihood responses remains limited. Targeting eight villages in Nam Et-Phou Louey (NEPL)...
Article
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It is often asserted that secondary forests (SF) provide inferior forest-based ecosystem services (ES), but there is limited research to generalize this claim. Here, we review comparisons between ES provision in SFs and other land uses in shifting cultivation landscapes. We searched the peer-reviewed literature and selected only studies that compar...
Article
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Human land use activities have resulted in large changes to the biogeochemical and biophysical properties of the Earth’s surface, with consequences for climate and other ecosystem services. In the future, land use activities are likely to expand and/or intensify further to meet growing demands for food, fiber, and energy. As part of the World Clima...
Article
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A large proportion of dryland trees and shrubs (hereafter referred to collectively as trees) grow in isolation, without canopy closure. These non-forest trees have a crucial role in biodiversity, and provide ecosystem services such as carbon storage, food resources and shelter for humans and animals1,2. However, most public interest relating to tre...
Article
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Largely dependent on rain-fed agriculture, the West African populations could be severely impacted by climate change and variability. In this paper, we performed a literature review relating to perceptions of climate change and variability in West Africa, followed by an in-depth comparison between perceptions by rural dwellers of Burkina Faso and t...
Preprint
Full-text available
Abstract. Human land-use activities have resulted in large changes to the biogeochemical and biophysical properties of the Earth surface, with consequences for climate and other ecosystem services. In the future, land-use activities are likely to expand and/or intensify further to meet growing demands for food, fiber, and energy. As part of the Wor...
Article
Full-text available
Following the massive expansion of rubber plantations in China, considerable research has been conducted on the impact of these landscape changes. The general consensus is that there have been negative impacts on the environment and positive impacts on local economies. However, since rubber prices dropped after 2011, the economic benefit to the loc...
Article
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Land is increasingly managed to serve multiple societal demands. Beyond food, fiber, habitation, and recreation, land is now being called on to meet demands for carbon sequestration, water purification, biodiversity conservation, and many others. Meeting these multiple demands requires negotiating trade-offs among the choices and differing values p...
Article
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Brazil, home to one of the planet’s last great forests, is currently in trade negotiations with its second largest trading partner, the European Union (EU). We urge the EU to seize this critical opportunity to ensure that Brazil protects human rights and the environment. Brazil’s forests, wetlands, and savannas are crucial to a great diversity of I...
Article
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Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) is viewed as an effective way to mitigate climate change by compensating stewards of forested areas for minimizing forestland conversion and protecting forest services. Opportunity costs assess the cost of foregone opportunity when preserving the forest instead of investing in an...
Article
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Tropical forests continue to undergo a rapid transformation. The expansion of rubber tree (Hevea brasiliensis) plantations has been reported as a major driver of forest loss, linked to a boom in market demand. Distant commodity markets have spurred a surge of large-scale economic land concessions granted throughout tropical Southeast Asia. Using sa...
Chapter
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Globalisation is causing unprecedented flows of people, resources, and goods across the world, accelerating interactions between distal land systems. The resulting overexploitation of the world’s natural resources has led to persistent calls for global environmental conservation efforts that reduce pressures on the natural environment requiring new...
Research
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Sustainable agricultural intensification appears in the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) as a key strategy for ending hunger (SDG2) and achieving sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems (SDG15). Yet, it is not clear whether such twin benefits - for both human wellbeing and ecosystems - are actually achieved, especially in low a...
Article
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In the version of this Review originally published, the top heading in the first column of Fig. 2 was mistakenly written ‘Food poisoning’; it should have read ‘Food provisioning’. This has now been corrected.
Article
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Land-use intensification in agrarian landscapes is seen as a key strategy to simultaneously feed humanity and use ecosystems sustainably, but the conditions that support positive social-ecological outcomes remain poorly documented. We address this knowledge gap by synthesizing research that analyses how agricultural intensification affects both eco...
Article
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There is insufficient knowledge on the effects of shifting cultivation on vegetation change, especially in situations of land use intensification. This study investigated the effects of shortening fallow length on recovery of small (Dbh < 5 cm) and big (Dbh ≥ 5 cm) plant species richness, composition and height growth in a dry Miombo woodland in Ea...
Article
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Woody vegetation in farmland acts as a carbon sink and provides ecosystem services for local people, but no macroscale assessments of the impact of management and climate on woody cover exist for drylands. Here we make use of very high spatial resolution satellite imagery to derive wall-to-wall woody cover patterns in tropical West African drylands...
Article
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Concerns over rapid widespread changes in social-ecological systems and their consequences for biodiversity, ecosystem functioning, food security, and human livelihoods are driving demands for globally comprehensive knowledge to support decision-making and policy development. Claims of regional or global knowledge about the patterns, causes, and si...
Article
Forest reference levels (FRLs) provide a benchmark for assessing reduced emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+), and they are central to demonstrate additionality of REDD+. Attaining realistic FRLs, however, is challenging, especially in complex mosaic landscapes. We established FRLs in northern Laos for different reference per...
Article
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Mosaic landscapes under shifting cultivation, with their dynamic mix of managed and natural land covers, often fall through the cracks in remote sensing–based land cover and land use classifications, as these are unable to adequately capture such landscapes’ dynamic nature and complex spectral and spatial signatures. But information about such land...
Data
Complied results of expert survey responses. (PDF)
Article
Full-text available
In this article, we shine a spotlight on approaches to research ecosystem service trade-offs and critically assess their representation of relevant social dynamics. Although studies linking ecosystem services and human well-being have provided theoretical insights into social and ecological trade-offs, we argue that ecosystem services research has...
Article
Abstract Armed-conflicts often occur in tropical areas considered to be of high ‘conservation-value’, termed as such for their biodiversity or carbon-storage functions. Despite this important overlap, few studies have assessed how forest-biomass is affected by armed-conflicts. Thus, in this paper we develop a multinomial logit model to examine how...
Article
The need for developing land sparing or land sharing policies for protecting the environment has been a polarized debate in the scientific literature. Some studies show that “spared” landscapes with clearly separated intensive agriculture and pristine forest are better for biodiversity and other ecosystem services, whereas others demonstrate the be...
Article
Full-text available
Of the countries considering national-level policies for incentivizing reductions in forest-based greenhouse gas emissions (REDD+), some 25 are experiencing (or are emerging from) armed-conflicts. It has been hypothesized that the outcomes of the interactions between carbon-storage and peacebuilding efforts could result in either improved or worsen...
Preprint
Woody vegetation in farmland acts as a carbon sink and provides ecosystem services for local people, but no macro-scale assessments of the impact of management and climate on woody cover exists for drylands. Here we make use of very high spatial resolution satellite imagery to derive wall-to-wall woody cover patterns in tropical West African drylan...
Article
The rapidly growing human population in sub-Saharan Africa generates increasing demand for agricultural land and forest products, which presumably leads to deforestation. Conversely, a greening of African drylands has been reported, but this has been difficult to associate with changes in woody vegetation. There is thus an incomplete understanding...
Article
Full-text available
Wild food constitutes a substantial part of household food consumption around the world, but rapid land use changes influence the availability of wild foods, which has implications for smallholders' food and nutrient intake. With increasing commercial agriculture and biodiversity conservation efforts in forested tropical regions, many shifting cult...
Article
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Mangrove forests in the tropics and subtropics grow in saline sediments in coastal and estuarine environments. Preservation of mangrove forests is important for many reasons, including the prevention of coastal erosion and seawater intrusion; the provision of spawning, nursery, and feeding grounds of diverse marine biota; and for direct use (such a...
Chapter
This book is a compilation of policy analyses on shifting cultivation throughout South and Southeast Asia. It is hoped that the availability of these analyses of past and present policies will help governments to formulate better informed policies towards shifting cultivation, that will ultimately contribute to both poverty reduction amongst upland...
Article
Full-text available
Conflicts between pastoralists and farmers in the Sahel mainly arise from competition over land and water resources or because of livestock damage to crops. Rather than being linked to larger environmental change processes such as climate change, conflicts are often caused by inappropriate zoning of land, governance and unequal power relations betw...
Article
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Global economic change and policy interventions are driving transitions from long-fallow swidden (LFS) systems to alternative land uses in Southeast Asia’s uplands. This study presents a systematic review of how these transitions impact upon livelihoods and ecosystem services in the region. Over 17 000 studies published between 1950 and 2015 were n...
Article
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Reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation (REDD+) has become a major conservation and development concept for international climate change mitigation over the past years with hundreds of so-called 'demonstration' or 'pilot' projects being planned and implemented across the Global South. Since the broad aim of such projects is to...
Article
The prospects of receiving funding for REDD+ have set many developing countries on a pathway of policy reforms to integrate REDD+ in national legislation. Progress has been slow partly due to the lengthy international negotiations on REDD+ but also because the policy reforms have not been backed by sufficient commitment to make REDD+ implementation...
Article
Full-text available
Ecosystem research focuses on goods and services, thereby ascribing beneficial values to the ecosystems. Depending on the context, however, outputs from ecosystems can be both positive and negative. We examined how provisioning services of wild animals and plants can switch between being services and disservices. We studied agricultural communities...
Article
In many countries with large tracts of tropical forests, there is a dual focus on enhancing forest protection and increasing commercial agriculture for economic development. Laos is a case in point for this development as the Government of Laos (GoL) has a strong commitment to economic growth, which rural farmers in part help realize through a rush...
Article
Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and forest Degradation (REDD+) is a promising mechanism of payments for ecosystem services with the aim to effectively reduce emissions in an efficient and equitable manner. REDD+ is part of the Paris-agreement reached at the UNFCCC COP21 in December 2015, but questions on whether REDD+ will work and bring mult...
Article
Contradicting policies and overlapping property arrangements are common in many countries, opening doors for diverse interpretations by different actors. This requires better knowledge on how competing interests and actors interact and what determines the practical competition outcomes as demand for land intensifies and international actors get inc...
Article
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The large scale conversion of extensive swidden agriculture to intensive market oriented production of maize in upland areas of South East Asia, is a cause of environmental concern. This study investigates how intensive maize cultivation affects soil quality in an upland area of Northern Thailand by comparing commonly used indicators of soil qualit...
Chapter
Full-text available
In this chapter, we define, conceptualize, and exemplify competition for ecosystem services derived from land. Competition for land-based ecosystem services arises when utilization of an ecosystem service by one actor reduces the possibility of other actors to use the same or other ecosystem services. Therefore, we focus on trade-offs and synergies...
Article
Full-text available
Conflicts between pastoralists and farmers in the Sahel arise from competition over land and water resources or because of livestock damages to crops. Rather than being linked to larger environmental change processes such as climate change, they are often causes by inappropriate zoning of land, governance and unequal power relations between stakeho...
Article
The implementation of carbon-storage efforts in countries experiencing armed conflicts or confronting illegal activities (such as illicit crop cultivation) will permit additional tropical forests to be protected for climate change mitigation. Yet, despite these potential gains, the appropriate design and application of forest conservation and clima...
Technical Report
Full-text available
This policy brief is based on collaborative research conducted during 2013-2016 under the project ‘Ecosystem Services, Wellbeing and Justice: Developing Tools for Research and Practice’, led by Prof Thomas Sikor and funded by the Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation program (ESPA). The project aims to a) contribute social understanding in a t...
Technical Report
Full-text available
This policy brief is based on collaborative research conducted during 2013-2016 under the project ‘Ecosystem Services, Wellbeing and Justice: Developing Tools for Research and Practice’, led by Prof Thomas Sikor and funded by the Ecosystem Services for Poverty Alleviation program (ESPA). The project aims to a) contribute social understanding in a t...
Article
Full-text available
Failure to recognize that potential provisioning ecosystem services are not necessarily collected and used by people may have important consequences for management of land and resources. Accounting for people's actual use of ecosystem services in decision making processes requires a robust methodological approach that goes beyond mapping the presen...
Article
Full-text available
The prospects of receiving funding for REDD+ have set many developing countries on a pathway of policy reforms to integrate REDD+ in national legislation. Progress has been slow partly due to the lengthy international negotiations on REDD+ but also because the policy reforms have not been backed by sufficient commitment to make REDD+ implementation...
Article
Full-text available
Mangrove forests are one of the most important coastal ecosystems as they support many local communities. However, over the last two decades harvesting of mangrove forests has been extensive with effects on mangrove biodiversity and ecosystem services. We investigate the effect of mangrove harvesting on tree biodiversity in South Sulawesi, Indonesi...
Article
During the restructuring of the Vietnamese economy in 1986, the Communist party of Vietnam (CPV) took the decision to leave central planning and build a market economy in Vietnam. In order to promote rural development and deal with deforestation, poverty and declining agricultural profitability, the government implemented the forestland allocation...