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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 ecosystem services and human well-being in low- and middle-income countries. Overall, we find that agricultural intensification is rarely found to lead to simultaneous positive ecosystem service and well-being outcomes. This is particularly the case when ecosystem services other than food provisioning are taken into consideration.
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https://doi.org/10.1038/s41893-018-0070-8
© 2018 Macmillan Publishers Limited, part of Springer Nature. All rights reserved.
1Department of Geosciences and Natural Resource Management, University of Copenhagen, Copenhagen, Denmark. 2Department of Forest and
Conservation Sciences, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. 3School of International Development, University of East
Anglia, Norwich, UK. 4European School of Political and Social Sciences, Lille Catholic University, Lille, France. 5BC3, University of the Basque Country, Leioa,
Spain. 6Ikerbasque, Basque Foundation for Science, Bilbao, Spain. 7Institute of Environmental Science and Technology, Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona,
Barcelona, Spain. 8School of Geosciences, University of Edinburgh, Edinburgh, UK. 9IIED, London, UK. *e-mail: Adrian.Martin@uea.ac.uk
Sustainable intensification of agriculture is now one of the main
agendas shaping global development efforts13 and 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)4. The high priority afforded
to agricultural intensification efforts arises from the assumed likeli-
hood of ‘win–win’ outcomes, defined here as benefits for human
well-being occurring simultaneously with benefits for ecosys-
tems57. This win–win assumption is often supported by referring to
the logic of the land sparing hypothesis, which asserts that intensify-
ing land use in existing agricultural areas will increase productivity
and hence enable more effective conservation elsewhere in the land-
scape8,9. However, it is often not clear whether these twin benefits
are actually achieved across different social-ecological contexts1012.
This uncertainty has led to a growing body of empirical research
that assesses intensification outcomes on ecosystems and human
well-being13,14. Yet the bulk of this research has a rather narrow focus
on specific subcomponents of either the natural or social spheres15,16
and only recently has there been a growth in literature that explores
combined and multidimensional social-ecological impacts of agri-
cultural intensification. This is still a comparatively small body of
literature, but it is nonetheless important and timely to synthesize
and learn from its emerging findings.
In this Review, we examine the combined social-ecological
outcomes arising from agricultural intensification by identifying
a range of outcome pathways at the scale at which the intensifica-
tion occurs, and exploring the conditions under which these dif-
ferent outcomes are likely to play out. We do so through a review
of the scientific literature that assesses both ecosystem services and
well-being outcomes associated with agricultural intensification.
While we acknowledge that social-ecological systems analysis goes
well beyond the ecosystem service approach, the ecosystem ser-
vice approach does make visible the relationship between ecologi-
cal processes and human well-being and therefore provides a clear
advantage over disconnected analysis of isolated ecological or socio-
economic aspects1720. Although there have been reviews on the
linkages between ecosystem service and well-being outcomes21,22,
here we look specifically at the context of agricultural intensifi-
cation, which we define broadly as activities that are intended to
increase either the productivity or profitability of a given tract of
agricultural land23.
We begin by describing the key characteristics of the set of
research cases that contain evidence of both well-being and eco-
system service outcomes of agricultural intensification. Next, we
categorize cases according to their joint outcomes (for example,
win–win summarizes a case where positive well-being and positive
ecosystem service outcomes were reported), and identify common
social-ecological trade-offs that feature in these outcomes. We then
investigate four sets of factors that we hypothesize to be associated
with the likelihood of different outcomes.
First, we look at methodological features of the reviewed stud-
ies, asking whether the timescale considered by the case and the
method for measuring change over time (Supplementary Fig. 4), are
themselves determinants of the outcomes observed. In particular,
we expect that longer timescales will lead to more frequent observa-
tion of negative environmental impacts due to the observed ten-
dency for time lags between agricultural intensification and impacts
on regulating ecosystem services24,25.
Second, we examine whether the type of intensification activ-
ity affects the likelihood of particular social-ecological outcomes.
Based on our pool of studies, we identify four categories of inten-
sification: (1) reduced fallow, (2) increased inputs, (3) crop change,
and (4) a combination of multiple types (see Supplementary Notes
for details on each type). We expect that increased use of inputs will
less frequently coincide with positive social-ecological outcomes for
both ecosystem services and well-being due to the known negative
impacts on regulating and supporting ecosystem services26.
Third, we consider whether the prevailing land-use intensity of
the location informs the occurrence of certain outcomes. According
to the Borlaug theory27 we might expect locations that were already
highly intensified to experience proportionately less additional
environmental impacts from further intensification. For example,
Social-ecological outcomes of agricultural
intensification
Laura Vang Rasmussen1,2, Brendan Coolsaet3,4, Adrian Martin3*, Ole Mertz1, Unai Pascual 5,6,
Esteve Corbera 7, Neil Dawson3, Janet A. Fisher8, Phil Franks9 and Casey M. Ryan 8
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 ecosystem services and
human well-being in low- and middle-income countries. Overall, we find that agricultural intensification is rarely found to lead
to simultaneous positive ecosystem service and well-being outcomes. This is particularly the case when ecosystem services
other than food provisioning are taken into consideration.
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the risk of biodiversity loss from deforestation has been found to
be higher in relatively intact landscapes than in already fragmented
ones28. But the opposite might also be found, where previously
intensified land undergoes proportionately more additional envi-
ronmental impact — for example, because yield increases stimulate
further agricultural encroachment or due to nonlinear degradation
of ecosystem services. For example, it has been found that mod-
est fertilizer applications in places without previous intensification
have little environmental impact whereas equivalent applications in
places that are already highly fertilized result in disproportionately
larger environmental impacts29. As indicators of pre-existing land-
use intensity, we use the Human Influence Index (HII)30, forest cover
and deforestation rate31 (see Supplementary Methods for a detailed
description of the datasets used) to test whether social-ecological
outcomes improved due to higher intensity of land use in the past.
Fourth, we look at the pre-existing human development con-
text. Using the Human Development Index (HDI)3234, we test the
expectation that higher prevailing levels of human development
are associated with positive social-ecological outcomes35, and
with enhanced capacity to derive well-being benefits from eco-
system services36.
In the final section we consider the implications of our findings
in terms of policy responses to pursue sustainable intensification
pathways and in terms of research priorities. We are concerned to
find that in most cases, agricultural intensification efforts are fail-
ing to achieve win–win outcomes. Where supporting and regulating
ecosystem services are measured, researchers more often find nega-
tive outcomes, especially in highly forested locations and in cases
where agricultural intensification takes the form of a change in
farmed crops. On a more positive note, by beginning to identify the
conditions associated with negative and positive outcomes, we are
able to point to research and policy agendas that can support more
socially and ecologically sustainable agricultural intensification.
Literature synthesis
The number of published peer-reviewed articles on linkages
between agricultural intensification, ecosystem services and well-
being has increased rapidly in recent years (Supplementary Fig. 1a).
Nonetheless, our literature search concurs with a recent evi-
dence gap mapping report, finding that few studies on the effects
of agriculture and land-use change measure impacts on both the
environment and human well-being37. Our search returned 53 peer-
reviewed papers (covering 60 cases) that: (1) document outcomes of
agricultural intensification, (2) report evidence of both ecosystem
service and human well-being outcomes, (3) are located in low- or
middle-income countries and (4) are published during the past
20 years (see Supplementary Methods for a description of the selec-
tion and coding procedure). The most common study design is lon-
gitudinal (n = 23), followed by ‘space-for-time substitution’ (n = 17)
and a model-based design (n = 10) (Supplementary Figs. 1b and 4).
Less commonly adopted designs include experimental and recall
studies. There was a higher representation of cases from Asia (n = 30)
than from Latin America (n = 15) and Africa (n = 15) (Fig. 1).
Figure 2 summarizes the joint outcomes reported for differ-
ent ecosystem services and different dimensions of well-being.
The distribution of cases reveals some important findings. First,
we find that research is concentrated on a small number of out-
come variables. Ecosystem service outcomes are dominated by food
production (provisioning service), biodiversity and soil formation
(supporting service) — comprising 85%, 62% and 43% of cases,
respectively — with comparatively few cases examining regulating
or cultural ecosystem services. Similarly, measures of well-being
are dominated by impacts on income (92% of cases), followed by
impacts on food security (38%), with few studies of impacts on
other constituents of well-being associated with health, education
or social relations, for example.
Second, the two most frequently reported outcomes (food pro-
duction and income) are also those most likely to be positive: 52% of
our cases report positive impacts on food production and 17% neg-
ative impacts; 68% report positive outcomes for income and 12%
negative impacts. Few of our cases assess outcomes on regulating
ecosystem services, but the majority of those that do find negative
outcomes. Thus, when a study reports a positive impact on ecosys-
tem services, this most commonly refers to food production, and
may well conceal negative impacts on other categories of ecosystem
service. With the caveat of small numbers of studies, Fig. 2 provides
some initial evidence of outcome trade-offs, in which agricultural
intensification tends to positively affect local food production and
income and negatively affect regulating and supporting services,
with great uncertainty over cultural ecosystem services given the
large gap in data.
Conjoined social-ecological outcomes. Figure 3a illustrates the
conjoined impacts on ecosystem services and well-being, with
each dot representing an individual case. A win–win case, placed
in the top-right corner of the figure, is a case with a majority of
positive outcomes for both its ecosystem service indicators and its
well-being indicators. Conversely, a ‘lose–lose’ case is a case with a
majority of negative outcomes in both dimensions. A key finding of
our analysis is that agricultural intensification is rarely found to lead
to win–win outcomes, especially so when more than provisioning
services are measured, and often has a negative outcome for at least
one of the ecosystem services that may support sustained produc-
tivity in the long term. As mentioned above, the reviewed research
has a propensity to assess food production and income and these
are the two outcome variables that are most likely to be assessed
positively. It is sobering that despite this bias in the literature, still
only 17% of our cases were categorized as having overall win–win
outcomes (Fig. 3a).
While Fig. 3a presents combined outcomes that include an
aggregation of all ecosystem services measured for that case,
Fig. 3b–e presents only selected disaggregated categories of ecosys-
tem services. This reveals that some ecosystem services respond
better to agricultural intensification. For example, when we select
only food provision (Fig. 3b), win–win cases are more common
than in the aggregated Fig. 3a. This is because gains in food produc-
tion are not being offset by recorded losses in other ecosystem ser-
vices. Logically then, when we choose other measures of ecosystem
service outcomes (such as non-food provisioning services, regulat-
ing, and biodiversity and supporting services), win–win outcomes
are less common (Fig. 3c–e). In our set of cases, lose–lose outcomes
occur with similar frequency (18%) to win–win outcomes and are
most common in cases that relate well-being outcomes to biodiver-
sity, water regulation services and soil formation (supporting ser-
vice; Fig. 3e). Nine of the 11 ‘lose-lose’ cases report dual losses for
biodiversity and well-being and four of the lose–lose cases report
dual losses for biodiversity and food security3841. Outcomes com-
bining aggregate well-being gains with aggregate ecosystem service
loss (win–lose) are the most likely type of outcome to occur (23%
of cases). These are most common where aggregated gains in well-
being are linked to losses in regulating ecosystem services, non-food
provisioning services, biodiversity and supporting services (Fig. 3).
Taken together, these findings suggest that although agricultural
intensification is often considered the backbone of food security42
and agricultural sustainability43, the reality is that intensification
often undermines conditions that may be critical for the support of
long-term and stable food production, including biodiversity, soil
formation and water regulation. For example, in a case from the
Bolivian Andes, a shift towards intensive cash-cropping of onions
has greatly reduced agro-biodiversity in the landscape, leading to
reduced disease regulation and ultimately to economic difficulties
for smallholders41. Although well-being gains are quite frequently
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accompanied by losses to non-provisioning ecosystem services, it
is remarkable that there is one case in which even provisioning eco-
system service gains are accompanied by well-being losses (Fig. 3a).
This case from Nigeria shows how agricultural intensification leads
to increasing provision of food but takes place at the cost of liveli-
hood flexibility, including reduced options for shifting field loca-
tions and less diverse livelihood strategies44.
A second important finding is that for any given impact on eco-
system services, the distribution of well-being impacts is uneven,
generally favouring wealthier individuals at the expense of poorer
ones. Across our dataset as a whole, there are relatively few stud-
ies that present socially differentiated outcomes, and this is an
important research gap. However, it is still notable that inequality
is reported in the majority of our lose–lose cases, either because
the better-off are found to disproportionately capture the benefits
of agricultural intensification4548 and/or because more vulnerable
social groups are found to disproportionately suffer from the loss of
ecosystem services on which their livelihoods depend40,45,46,49,50. For
example, Islam and colleagues46 show how rapid uptake of saltwater
shrimp production in Bangladesh is enabling investors and land-
owners with large holdings to get higher profits while poorer people
are “left with the environmental consequences that affect their long
term lives and livelihoods” (page 450 of ref. 46). The poverty of these
groups is being exacerbated because, unlike farmers with more land,
they are unable to benefit economically from shrimp production
and at the same time they suffer from the salinization of soils that is
undermining traditional rice production.
Attention to lose–lose cases suggests two basic pathways that
explain conjoined losses in ecosystem services and well-being.
First, there is a pathway whereby agricultural intensification ini-
tially leads to reduced well-being for certain social groups and
where this in turn negatively affects the ecosystem services on
which they depend. For example, a case from Amazonia shows how
shifts from subsistence to cash-cropping, including a commodity
boom in palm oil, leaves small-scale farmers with reduced access to
land, forcing them to shorten fallows, leading to loss of soil fertil-
ity and thus to lower yields and reduced agricultural income49. Via
the second pathway, agricultural intensification negatively affects
ecosystem services, which in turn negatively impacts well-being,
with the poorest disproportionately affected. For example, Tadesse
and co-authors45 show how intensification of coffee production
in Ethiopia, driven by investors and state enterprises, is initially
blamed for declining access to and availability of several provision-
ing ecosystem services, negatively affecting the well-being of local
minority groups who are more reliant on these services for their
livelihoods. We also observe more complex outcome pathways that
seem to combine both directions of social-ecological interaction.
For example, another case from Amazonia shows a more complex
variant in which intensification of swidden cultivation of cassava
leads to (1) reduced fallow periods, (2) rapid escalation of weeding
requirements, (3) reduced farming capacity of households who can-
not afford labour or other inputs and (4) concentration of produc-
tion on smaller plots, resulting in the lose–lose outcomes of lower
food production and lower incomes51.
Factors associated with social-ecological outcomes. Our analy-
sis of contextual factors considered four potential determinants of
social-ecological outcomes: methodological treatment of time, type
of agricultural intensification activity, pre-existing land-use inten-
sity and development context. No relationship was found between
the methodological factors and the likelihood of observed out-
comes (Supplementary Fig. 4). Contrary to our expectations, lon-
ger timescales do not seem to lead to more frequent observation of
negative environmental impacts, although this might be due to the
limited attention devoted to regulating ecosystem services across
the studies.
To examine the influence of activity type, we categorized each
case according to four main types of agricultural intensification
present in our set of cases: reduced fallow, increased inputs, crop
change and lastly combined, which involves combinations of the
first three types (see Supplementary Notes). Figure 4 shows that
win–win outcomes occur most frequently in cases where intensi-
fication involves increased use of inputs (5 of the 20 cases) such as
fertilizers, irrigation, seeds and labour. There is only one case in
which intensification through increased inputs generates lose–lose
outcomes — this is a case in Bangladesh, where irrigation has led to
over-extraction of groundwater; this contributes to soil salinization,
which is associated with significant negative effects on household
food security52. The association of increased inputs with increases
in ecosystem services is in large part a product of classifying food
Well-being
Outcome of intensification
Varies by type of int.
Lose
Ambiguous
Win
Ecosystem
service
Fig. 1 | Geographic distribution of the cases by social-ecological outcomes. The symbols of some tightly clustered cases have been offset for clarity. In
locations with multiple cases, it is shown whether the outcome varies by intensification type. The study by Ceddia and colleagues60 is omitted from the
map as the case describes aggregate results across six countries. Int, intensification.
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production as an ecosystem service53 and indeed half of all our
win–win cases involve higher inputs leading to higher food produc-
tion. We note that three5456 out of the five win–win cases involving
higher input use are linked to increased irrigation practices, with
two of these describing combined use of irrigation and fertilizers.
None of the win–win cases with higher input use include inputs
such as organic fertilizers, biofertilizers or biopesticides — however,
within the full sample only eight cases document such inputs.
There are isolated studies that suggest intensification through
increased inputs can yield positive outcomes for ecosystem services
other than just food provisioning, but this evidence remains weak.
Some propose that this type of intensification can make room for
Food provisioning
Genetic resources
Biochemicals
Water purificationRegulating
Cultural
Water regulation
Disease regulation
Climate regulation
Pollination
Spiritual and religious
Cultural heritage
Recreation and ecotourism
Aesthetic and educational
Sense of place
Soil formation
Primary production
Nutrient cycling
Natural capital
Food security
Material assets
Employment
Health
Social relations or values
Property right
Justice
Cases with
positive
outcomes (%)
Cases with
negative
outcomes (%)
Cases with
ambiguous
outcomes (%)
Cases describing
the category (%)
Evidence
strength
0
0
08
33
0
0
0
0
30
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
0
15
33
23
505
5
5
5
5
5
58
15
15
15
31
2
13
7
7
7
10
10
10
33
20
38
33
15
1212
12
12
17
18
18
45 62
92
68
5
5
55
3
3
3
3
3
3
3
2
2
2
12
12
12
8
8
8
13
13
18
2
2
2
22
217
7
1752 17
2
22
2
2
2
43
22
10
10
85
20
13
2
2
22
2
2
2
2
3
3
3
2
2
Food
Provisioning Fibre
Fuel
Freshwater
Biodiversity
Economic well-being Income
Supporting
Biodiversity
Non-economic
well-being
Education
Ecosystem services
Well-being
Fig. 2 | Distribution of evidence of the effects of agricultural intensification on ecosystem services and well-being. The size of the evidence base is
assessed by the proportion of cases that describe each category of ecosystem services and well-being. The final column shows the strength of the
evidence, as estimated by the authors (see Supplementary Methods for details of the assessment). n=  60 cases.
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reforestation (as per the ‘land sparing’ theory) with associated posi-
tive outcomes for a broad set of non-provisioning ecosystem ser-
vices, such as climate regulation, nutrient cycling, soil formation
and biodiversity47,57,58. However, we note that although positive out-
comes are reported at the scale at which the intensification occurs,
land management for the optimization of a given ecosystem service
may lead to displacement of undesired impacts to other locations.
These so-called off-stage ecosystem service burdens represent phe-
nomena including environmental leakage24 and rebound effects59,60.
That is, the agricultural intensification might, for example, enable
farmers to invest more inputs, including labour, in other areas,
thereby displacing and increasing the environmental pressure
elsewhere. We also note that three cases specifically focus on how
poorer farmers are being displaced by better-off farmers with better
access to resources and how the intensification might lead to the
attraction of new farmers because of the better economic returns,
thereby increasing pressure on local ecosystem services6062. Higher
input use might also encourage diversification practices, such as
integrated fish and rice farming63, integrated rice and fruit produc-
tion (such as mango)55 and vegetable diversification54,64. Our set of
cases also shows that studies that find lose–lose outcomes often
point to a shortage of inputs as a determining factor40,41,4951,65. These
cases show that various types of intensification increase the need for
further inputs and that these are either not available or, more often,
not affordable. For example, intensification through state-regulated
crop varieties in Rwanda places smallholders in a position where
they need to purchase additional inputs such as fertilizers, but often
cannot afford to do so48.
We find that intensification involving reduced fallow and crop
changes leads to the majority of lose–lose outcomes (Fig. 4). These
cases often involve the entwined processes of crop specialization and
progress towards monoculture of crops such as coffee45,50, shrimp46,
pineapple40, onion41 and maize65, along with a transition from sub-
sistence farming to cash-cropping and abandonment of traditional
subsistence crops and varieties. As noted above, these transforma-
tions towards monoculture often involve shortage of fertilizers
and other inputs, despite research finding increased need for such
inputs. This raises the question of why smallholders would pursue
intensification pathways for which they cannot afford the neces-
sary inputs. A frequent explanation for this is that intensification
either occurs as a necessity brought about by demographic change,
as in Boserup’s seminal agricultural intensification theory66, or as
a response to state policies, taxation or the cumulative pressures
arising from landscape-level changes in land use and land tenure67.
In one of the Amazonian cases, intensification through new vari-
eties and reduced fallow is reportedly induced by local population
growth leading to increased demand for cassava51. In a Rwandan
case, smallholders are obliged to change from traditional crop vari-
eties to those selected by government agronomists48. For a case
in Bangladesh, researchers find that the salinization arising from
larger farmers converting to aquaculture leaves remaining farmers
with ‘little choice’ but to follow suit46; and in a case in Costa Rica, the
rapid homogenization of land use to pineapple plantations makes
it increasingly difficult to survive as a traditional multi-cropper40.
Thus we see a wide range of examples in which smallholders are
in some way compelled to adopt forms of intensification for which
they are ill-prepared. This often involves loss of agrobiodiversity and
our results generally confirm the conjecture that progress towards
monoculture is associated with certain negative social and ecologi-
cal outcomes. Some of the pathways described include monocul-
tures leading to increased biodiversity loss40,41, disease intensity65
and declining soil fertility41.
Along with intensification type, we also examine the association
between earlier land-use intensity (proxied by the HII), forest cover
and deforestation rate) and the joint social-ecological outcomes.
This remains an exploratory analysis given the limited number of
cases, but it provides important insights that we think merit further
attention. Although we see considerable variability between cases,
one important generalized observation is that we see no evidence
in support of the hypothesis that highly intensified locations will
experience proportionately less additional environmental impacts.
This finding is in agreement with recent literature that chal-
lenges whether land sparing will happen, even in contexts where
it is highly desirable68,69. Within our sample, lose–lose outcomes
seem to be at least as likely to happen in landscapes already under
heavy anthropogenic pressure as they are in locations with low HII
scores. Compared with win–win and win–lose (social-ecological)
outcomes, lose–lose cases are associated with slightly higher levels
(median) of HII (Supplementary Figs. 2a and 3), thus providing no
support for the hypothesis that previous land-use intensification
Ecosystem services
+
Well-being
–+
Ecosystem services
+
Well-being
–+
Ecosystem services
+
Well-being
–+
Ecosystem services
+
Well-being
–+
b
a
d
ce
Ecosystem services
+
Well-being
–+
W
i
n
w
i
n
L
o
s
e
l
o
s
e
Fig. 3 | Impact of land-use intensification on ecosystem services and human well-being. Each case is recorded as negative (-), ambiguous or positive
(+ ) along each axis. A win–win case, placed in the top-right corner of the figure, is a case with a majority of positive outcomes for both its ecosystem
service indicators and its well-being indicators. a, Aggregated ecosystem service categories. be, Ecosystem service outcomes restricted to food
provisioning (b), non-food provisioning services (c), regulating services (d) and supporting services and biodiversity (e). Each black dot represents an
individual case.
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may create conditions that protect against further negative social-
ecological outcomes. For example, in a lose–lose case with the
highest overall HII, high deforestation rates, population pressure,
land shortage and intensive resource extraction, Mexican farm-
ers are forced to shift to monocultures with little capacity to pro-
vide food security and adequate income, as well as severe impacts
on agro-biodiversity65.
It is informative to use our contextual variables to add to a gener-
alized profile of what a lose–lose case looks like relative to a win–win
case. In addition to a slightly higher HII score, our lose–lose cases
tend to be areas that initially had more forest, as evidenced by the
highest median forest cover (in 2000) in lose–lose cases (57% com-
pared with 40% for win–win cases, using one-way analysis of vari-
ance (ANOVA) (F (1,19) = 3.2, P < 0.1)) (Supplementary Figs. 2c
and 3). Moreover, lose–lose cases seem to have experienced higher
rates of forest loss, as indicated by slightly higher median deforesta-
tion rates (Supplementary Figs. 2d and 3). Bringing in earlier find-
ings, we can also say that a lose–lose case more often involves locally
induced intensification through population growth and land scar-
city38,40,41,45,50,51, and challenges for the involved smallholders arising
from inability to access necessary inputs. In 9 out of 11 lose–lose
cases, loss of biodiversity is also reported.
As previously discussed, a review of available cases suggests that
alternative and sometimes complex causal pathways connect well-
being and ecosystem service outcomes from agricultural intensifi-
cation. For example, we see that win–win outcomes are found in
landscapes with a lower HII, but also in landscapes with low as well
as high forest cover and deforestation rates, indicating a blurred
picture. Although changes in forests affect ecosystem services such
as water regulation and pollination, which in turn might determine
the impact of agricultural intensification on social and ecological
outcomes, some cases present the reverse causality. For example,
changes in well-being can be a determinant of how much forest
is cleared61. Looking at whether the pre-existing level of human
development (via the HDI in 200033,34) might be associated with
social-ecological outcomes, we observe the highest median HDI
in lose–lose cases (0.64 compared with 0.54 for win–win cases, but
the difference is not significant) (Supplementary Figs. 2b and 3).
That we see a higher median HDI in the lose–lose cases may be
due to a spatial scale mismatch, because for many cases the HDI
is only available at coarser spatial resolution. Nevertheless, the
results do not support the expectation that more environmentally
positive outcomes are associated with higher prevailing levels of
human development.
Implications for sustainable intensification
As there are few reviews that synthesize knowledge on how agri-
cultural intensification affects both ecosystems and human well-
being in low- and middle-income countries, we recognize that the
available body of research remains small, and it is unlikely to be
representative of all intensification cases. Moreover, we note that
finding a sufficient set of cases required pragmatic, expert-led selec-
tion rather than a systematic review protocol. Nonetheless, agri-
cultural intensification is seen by many in science and policy as a
flagship strategy for helping to meet global social and ecological
commitments such as the SDGs and Paris Agreement and as such
the findings presented here provide important insights despite their
preliminary nature. Based on the available literature examining
combined social-ecological outcomes of agricultural intensification,
we find that intensification cannot be considered as a simple blue-
print for achieving positive social-ecological outcomes. While there
is considerable hope and expectation that agricultural intensifica-
tion can contribute to sustainable development, we find that only
a minority of researched cases present evidence for this and that
even these infrequent win–win cases tend to lack evidence of the
effects on key regulating or supporting ecosystem services. In short,
we have scant evidence to back up the weight of expectation that we
currently see attached to agricultural intensification. By contrast, we
find that negative outcome pathways are still common. We also note
that dual losses for biodiversity and well-being, especially in asso-
ciation with food security, tend to go together. This confirms other
recent work that, for example, shows a positive association between
species richness and dietary quality across seven low- and middle-
income countries70. In summary, few of our cases provide evidence
d
b
c
Ecosystem services
+
Well-being
–+
a
Ecosystem services
+
Well-being
–+
Ecosystem services
+
Well-being
–+
Ecosystem services
+
Well-being
–+
Fig. 4 | Combined effect of different types of agricultural intensification on ecosystem services and well-being. Each dot represents an individual case,
n=  57 cases. Three cases did not define the type of intensification. a, Reduced fallow. b, Crop change. c, Increased input. d, Combined intensification.
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NaTure SuSTaiNabiLiTy
that agricultural intensification is contributing simultaneously to
SDGs such as ending hunger (SDG2) and achieving sustainable use
of terrestrial ecosystems (SDG15).
If we are to achieve sustainable intensification of agricultural
land use71 we need to begin responding to what we already know
while also working to fill some considerable knowledge gaps. We
clearly need to learn more about the variability of outcomes that
we have observed and the complex social-ecological pathways and
interactions, across scales (both temporal and spatial), that these
suggest. But we are already able to observe some of the contexts in
which undesirable local outcomes occur most frequently. In par-
ticular, we would highlight the often unsustainable (or lose–lose)
outcomes arising where intensification takes the form of reduced
fallow in swidden systems or where it takes the form of a change in
crops that involves a tendency towards monoculture. It is not the
higher input cases that lead to most lose–lose outcomes.
We also see that it is the context of these forms of intensifica-
tion that matters: change is often induced or imposed for more
vulnerable population groups who often lack the critical capital to
make these changes work. Smallholders in our cases often struggle
to transform from subsistence to commercial farming, and the
challenges involved are not well reflected in many intensification
strategies. In addition, we find evidence to suggest a more nuanced
picture than that of unsustainable outcomes being associated with
lower levels of human development. These are important lessons
that policymakers and practitioners can respond to in terms of
moderating their expectations of agricultural intensification out-
comes and striving for improved and alternative practices72. What
might these better, alternative practices be? We have to be cautious
here because we have seen only a limited number of cases where
intensification leads to enhanced ecosystem services beyond
short-term food production or to well-being benefits beyond
improved incomes. These cases tend to combine landscape-scale
intensification with landscape restoration and diversification of
agronomic practices.
Knowledge gaps not only arise from the limited number of stud-
ies but also from their focus. We note that the bulk of studies do
not seek to understand causal relations between gains and losses in
different ecosystem services and the multiple dimensions of well-
being, which suggests that a stronger focus on causal explanations
is needed73. We also find that some categories of ecosystem services
are sparsely studied. This was especially evident for the cultural and
regulating ecosystem services. Out of the 20 categories of ecosys-
tem services, 10 categories (such as cultural heritage, pollination)
were addressed by only 10% or less of the cases. Similarly, the study
of well-being was in most cases limited to measures of income, with
barely any research that combines ecosystem service outcomes with
other well-being constituents such as livelihood security, education,
health, secure property rights or perceptions of social justice. This
is concerning because well-being extends far beyond economic
well-being21,74,75. This emphasizes the need for stronger and more
explicit evidence to back up claims for the effects of intensification
on joint social-ecological outcomes. The observed propensity to
assess a small number of output variables (notably food production
and income) stands in the way of a more systemic understanding of
coupled social-ecological outcomes. Perhaps most critically of all,
we should be cautious about categorizing a case as an ecosystem
service win based on food production gains, when we have little to
no research findings about impacts on other ecosystem services,
trade-offs across scales and potentially systemic off-stage eco-
system service burdens24. Thus, it is pertinent for future research
efforts to consider how biodiversity and ecosystem services other
than food production, particularly regulating and cultural services,
as well as aspects of well-being other than income, can be incorpo-
rated into assessments of the social-ecological outcomes of agricul-
tural intensification.
Data availability. The authors declare that the main data sup-
porting the findings of this study are available within the article
and Supplementary Information. The code book is deposited with
the UK Data Service repository at http://reshare.ukdataservice.
ac.uk/853181/.
Received: 24 July 2017; Accepted: 19 April 2018;
Published: xx xx xxxx
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Acknowledgements
This paper has been developed as part of the project ‘Landscapes in transition:
synthesising knowledge on trade-offs between land use changes, ecosystem services and
wellbeing’ (grant no. NE/P008356/1), funded with support from the ESPA programme.
The ESPA programme (http://www.espa.ac.uk) is funded by the DFID, the ESRC and
NERC. The research contributes to the Global Land Programme (https://glp.earth). E.C.
acknowledges the financial support of the UAB-Banco de Santander Talent Retention
Programme and notes that this work contributes to ICTA-UAB ‘Unit of Excellence’
(MinECo, MDM2015-0552). We thank T. Dale for assistance during the coding process.
Author contributions
L.V.R., B.C. and A.M. led the design and writing of the study. L.V.R and B.C coded the
papers and analysed the data. C.M.R. made Fig. 1. All authors contributed to study
design, data interpretation and writing of the manuscript.
Competing interests
The authors declare no competing interests.
Additional information
Supplementary information is available for this paper at https://doi.org/10.1038/
s41893-018-0070-8.
Reprints and permissions information is available at www.nature.com/reprints.
Correspondence should be addressed to A.M.
Publisher’s note: Springer Nature remains neutral with regard to jurisdictional claims in
published maps and institutional affiliations.
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... Agricultural intensification is often supported by governments (e.g. through subsidies and incentive schemes) concerned with development and growth (Dawson et al., 2016), and by some conservation scientists who contend that intensification (increased output per unit area of crop-land) can spare land for nature (recognised as 'land sparing' approaches; Green et al., 2005). However, intensification also generates social and environmental burdens that include infringements on HWB particularly for small-scale land managers peripheral to market economies (Dawson et al., 2016;Rasmussen et al., 2018;Santika et al., 2020). ...
... As a result, the comparative impacts of interventions on the land sharing, sparing gradient on the multiple dimensions [i.e. quality of life (or subjective), material and relational] of HWB remain poorly understood (McKinnon et al., 2016;Rasmussen et al., 2018). ...
... Issue Edisted by Biedenweg & Gross-Camp, 2018), although has yet to fully permeate the conservation and agricultural sectors (Büscher & Wolmer, 2007;McKinnon et al., 2016;Rasmussen et al., 2018). Notably, the relational values imbued within landscapes (Chan et al., 2016;Chan et al., 2018) have received little attention in conservation or agriculture impact assessment to date, with some notable exceptions (Cundill et al., 2017;Riechers et al., 2020). ...
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... That questions the rationale for agricultural growth corridors focused solely on conventional intensification. Recent advancements in the field have increased our ability to capture the multidimensional scope of well-being in an objective metric and use it to assess the outcomes of agricultural interventions in a more comprehensive way Costanza et al. 2016;Rasmussen et al. 2018;Beauchamp et al. 2018;Loveridge et al. 2020). ...
... For now, we have an incomplete picture of the impacts of sustainable agricultural practices on food production and well-being over a wide range of farming systems (Reed et al. 2017;Castle et al. 2021). Policymakers should not assume that industrial farming intensification will inevitably result in higher human well-being, if that intensification is done at the expense of natural areas (Rasmussen et al. 2018) and/or human health (de Bon et al. 2014). Future research should focus on detailing trade-offs and synergies adjusted to local contexts, including on outcomes (e.g., profitability, food security) that are most relevant to smallholder farmers and specifically on how vulnerable groups are affected (Below et al. 2012;Kleijn et al. 2019;Castle et al. 2021). ...
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... Industrial advancement completely maneuvered human society towards never-ending demand for earthly possessions and a new level of comfort which subsequently channeled towards uncontrolled natural resource extraction as well as intense landscape modification. Globally, a large volume of the literature suggests how commerce and consumerist economy stimulate deforestation, agricultural intensification, uncontrolled resource extraction, and change in socio-cultural perspective towards nature (Tscharntke et al. 2012; Cuaresma et al. 2017; Rasmussen et al. 2018). ...
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Rural settlement is the action centre of the rural landscape. The settlement or village itself contributes significantly towards landscape diversity and ecosystem dynamics. Village structure with all its components (houses, cattle shed, home garden, abandoned lands, and religious places) and diverse activities (livelihood, social, religious, cultural etc.) offers heterogeneity to the natural system. How this heterogeneity coupled with human activities promotes environmental sustainability in rural India is elaborately discussed in this article.
... Intensification refers to increasing productivity on a given parcel of land through the heavy use of inputs (such as pesticides and fertilizers). Though this may increase profits, and in some cases also food security, it generally drives biodiversity loss as it is currently practiced (Batáry et al., 2017;Hendershot et al., 2020;Rasmussen et al., 2018). Studies point to the detrimental impacts on biodiversity in general, and on soil biodiversity and insects in particular, especially through mechanization and pesticide use (see, for example, Orgiazzi et al., 2016;Sanchez-Bayo and Wyckhuys, 2019;Seibold et al., 2019;Tsiafouli et al., 2015). ...
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Over fifty years of global conservation has failed to bend the curve of biodiversity loss, so we need to transform the ways we govern biodiversity. The UN Convention on Biological Diversity aims to develop and implement a transformative framework for the coming decades. However, the question of what transformative biodiversity governance entails and how it can be implemented is complex. This book argues that transformative biodiversity governance means prioritizing ecocentric, compassionate and just sustainable development. This involves implementing five governance approaches - integrative, inclusive, adaptive, transdisciplinary and anticipatory governance - in conjunction and focused on the underlying causes of biodiversity loss and unsustainability. Transforming Biodiversity Governance is an invaluable source for academics, policy makers and practitioners working in biodiversity and sustainability governance. This is one of a series of publications associated with the Earth System Governance Project. For more publications, see www.cambridge.org/earth-system-governance. This title is also available as Open Access on Cambridge Core.
... Intensification refers to increasing productivity on a given parcel of land through the heavy use of inputs (such as pesticides and fertilizers). Though this may increase profits, and in some cases also food security, it generally drives biodiversity loss as it is currently practiced (Batáry et al., 2017;Hendershot et al., 2020;Rasmussen et al., 2018). Studies point to the detrimental impacts on biodiversity in general, and on soil biodiversity and insects in particular, especially through mechanization and pesticide use (see, for example, Orgiazzi et al., 2016;Sanchez-Bayo and Wyckhuys, 2019;Seibold et al., 2019;Tsiafouli et al., 2015). ...
Chapter
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Over fifty years of global conservation has failed to bend the curve of biodiversity loss, so we need to transform the ways we govern biodiversity. The UN Convention on Biological Diversity aims to develop and implement a transformative framework for the coming decades. However, the question of what transformative biodiversity governance entails and how it can be implemented is complex. This book argues that transformative biodiversity governance means prioritizing ecocentric, compassionate and just sustainable development. This involves implementing five governance approaches - integrative, inclusive, adaptive, transdisciplinary and anticipatory governance - in conjunction and focused on the underlying causes of biodiversity loss and unsustainability. Transforming Biodiversity Governance is an invaluable source for academics, policy makers and practitioners working in biodiversity and sustainability governance. This is one of a series of publications associated with the Earth System Governance Project. For more publications, see www.cambridge.org/earth-system-governance. This title is also available as Open Access on Cambridge Core.
... In modern, conventional agroecosystems, orchard trees are frequently cultivated in monoculture with bare ground alleys (Gomiero et al., 2011;Rasmussen et al., 2018;Saunders et al., 2013). But, in orchard systems seeding alleys with cover crops can provide pollinator habitat and weed competition and contributes to pest management via recruitment of beneficial insects (Bugg and Dutcher, 1989;Bugg and Waddington, 1994;Grauke et al., 1994Grauke et al., , 2016Tursun et al., 2018). ...
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Currently, there are substantial knowledge gaps on the impacts of cover crops on soil resources in tree cropping systems, wherein they are typically planted in interrow alleys and maintained for multiple years. While cover crops uptake soil nutrients and water, they can also prevent soil water evaporative losses and return nutrients to soils via decomposition of plant residues and stimulation of microbial nutrient cycling. This field sampling study examined variances in soil conditions across 5- and 7-year-old, cover cropped pecan orchards. We collected soil beneath cover crops and beneath adjacent trees, where soil was kept bare, to evaluate impacts of cover on the soil biota, nutrients, carbon, and their dynamics across a production season. We employed routine soil chemical analyses, phospholipid fatty acid (PLFA) analysis, and high throughput sequencing of 16 S rRNA genes and ITS regions for soils collected at four time points. We revealed that the cover cropped alley soils contained higher relative abundances of microbes that use labile soil substrates in resource rich conditions than did the tree row soils. Soil chemical analyses provided additional evidence that the cover crops did not deplete soil nutrients and reduce soil moisture, but rather, enhanced soil nutrient and moisture contents during many of the sampling time points. Notably, cover crop plant species correlated with soil nutrients and plant beneficial microbes, which may warrant consideration when selecting cover crop species. The tree row and cover cropped alley soils had different proportions of plant-beneficial mycorrhizal fungi. The tree rows supported higher numbers of ectomycorrhizal (ECM) fungi and alleys had higher relative abundances of arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi, suggesting potential benefits for tree species like pecan, which support dual colonization by AM and ECM Fungi. Altogether, the cover crops enhanced soil carbon, nutrients, and microbial populations in a pecan orchard and these impacts were frequently larger in a 7-year-old versus 5-year-old orchard.
... However, Market-oriented intensive policies have negative impacts on society and the environment (Pretty, 2018), including reduced land tenure security, reduced self-sufficient production, water pollution, and fading cultural customs, especially for the poorest and most marginalized vulnerable groups (Abro et al., 2014;Dawson et al., 2019). It means that the intensification process is accompanied by inequality, which benefits the rich and causes the more vulnerable social groups to suffer the loss of ecosystem services from their livelihoods (Rasmussen et al., 2018). As a result, most studies have focused on the marginalization of cultivated land use in low marginal areas dominated by abandonment. ...
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The world is heading in the wrong direction on carbon emissions where we are not on track to limit global warming to 1.5 °C; Ireland is among the countries where overall emissions have continued to rise. The development of wettable peatland products and services (termed ‘Paludiculture’) present significant opportunities for enabling a transition away from peat-harvesting (fossil fuels) to developing ‘green’ eco-innovations. However, this must be balanced with sustainable carbon sequestration and environmental protection. This complex transition from ‘brown to green’ must be met in real time by enabling digital technologies across the full value chain. This will potentially necessitate creation of new green-business models with the potential to support disruptive innovation. This timely paper describes digital transformation of paludiculture-based eco-innovation that will potentially lead to a paradigm shift towards using smart digital technologies to address efficiency of products and services along with future-proofing for climate change. Digital transform of paludiculture also aligns with the ‘Industry 5.0 - a human-centric solution’. However, companies supporting peatland innovation may lack necessary standards, data-sharing or capabilities that can also affect viable business model propositions that can jeopardize economic, political and social sustainability. Digital solutions may reduce costs, increase productivity, improve produce develop, and achieve faster time to market for paludiculture. Digitisation also enables information systems to be open, interoperable, and user-friendly. This constitutes the first study to describe the digital transformation of paludiculture, both vertically and horizontally, in order to inform sustainability that includes process automation via AI, machine learning, IoT-Cloud informed sensors and robotics, virtual and augmented reality, and blockchain for cyber-physical systems. Thus, the aim of this paper is to describe the applicability of digital transformation to actualize the benefits and opportunities of paludiculture activities and enterprises in the Irish midlands with a global orientation.
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An increasing amount of high-resolution global spatial data are available, and used for various assessments. However, key economic and human development indicators are still mainly provided only at national level, and downscaled by users for gridded spatial analyses. Instead, it would be beneficial to adopt data for sub-national administrative units where available, supplemented by national data where necessary. To this end, we present gap-filled multiannual datasets in gridded form for Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and Human Development Index (HDI). To provide a consistent product over time and space, the sub-national data were only used indirectly, scaling the reported national value and thus, remaining representative of the official statistics. This resulted in annual gridded datasets for GDP per capita (PPP), total GDP (PPP), and HDI, for the whole world at 5 arc-min resolution for the 25-year period of 1990–2015. Additionally, total GDP (PPP) is provided with 30 arc-sec resolution for three time steps (1990, 2000, 2015).
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A major challenge today and into the future is to maintain or enhance beneficial contributions of nature to a good quality of life for all people. This is among the key motivations of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES), a joint global effort by governments, academia, and civil society to assess and promote knowledge of Earth's biodiversity and ecosystems and their contribution to human societies in order to inform policy formulation. One of the more recent key elements of the IPBES conceptual framework (1) is the notion of nature's contributions to people (NCP), which builds on the ecosystem service concept popularized by the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA) (2). But as we detail below, NCP as defined and put into practice in IPBES differs from earlier work in several important ways. First, the NCP approach recognizes the central and pervasive role that culture plays in defining all links between people and nature. Second, use of NCP elevates, emphasizes, and operationalizes the role of indigenous and local knowledge in understanding nature's contribution to people.
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Biodiversity is key for human and environmental health. Available dietary and ecological indicators are not designed to assess the intricate relationship between food biodiversity and diet quality. We applied biodiversity indicators to dietary intake data from and assessed associations with diet quality of women and young children. Data from 24-hour diet recalls (55% in the wet season) of n = 6,226 participants (34% women) in rural areas from seven low- and middle-income countries were analyzed. Mean adequacies of vitamin A, vitamin C, folate, calcium, iron, and zinc and diet diversity score (DDS) were used to assess diet quality. Associations of biodiversity indicators with nutrient adequacy were quantified using multilevel models, receiver operating characteristic curves, and test sensitivity and specificity. A total of 234 different species were consumed, of which <30% were consumed in more than one country. Nine species were consumed in all countries and provided, on average, 61% of total energy intake and a significant contribution of micronutrients in the wet season. Compared with Simpson's index of diversity and functional diversity, species richness (SR) showed stronger associations and better diagnostic properties with micronutrient adequacy. For every additional species consumed, dietary nutrient adequacy increased by 0.03 (P < 0.001). Diets with higher nutrient adequacy were mostly obtained when both SR and DDS were maximal. Adding SR to the minimum cutoff for minimum diet diversity improved the ability to detect diets with higher micronutrient adequacy in women but not in children. Dietary SR is recommended as the most appropriate measure of food biodiversity in diets.
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The connected nature of social-ecological systems has never been more apparent than in today's globalized world. The ecosystem service framework and associated ecosystem assessments aim to better inform the science-policy response to sustainability challenges. Such assessments, however, often overlook distant, diffuse and delayed impacts that are critical for global sustainability. Ecosystem-services science must better recognise the off-stage impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services of place-based ecosystem management, which we term 'ecosystem service burdens'. These are particularly important since they are often negative, and have a potentially significant effect on ecosystem management decisions. Ecosystem-services research can better recognise these off-stage burdens through integration with other analytical approaches, such as life cycle analysis and risk-based approaches that better account for the uncertainties involved. We argue that off-stage ecosystem service burdens should be incorporated in ecosystem assessments such as those led by the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Taking better account of these off-stage burdens is essential to achieve a more comprehensive understanding of cross-scale interactions, a pre-requisite for any sustainability transition.
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Global biodiversity loss is a critical environmental crisis, yet the lack of spatial data on biodiversity threats has hindered conservation strategies. Theory predicts that abrupt biodiversity declines are most likely to occur when habitat availability is reduced to very low levels in the landscape (10-30%). Alternatively, recent evidence indicates that biodiversity is best conserved by minimizing human intrusion into intact and relatively unfragmented landscapes. Here we use recently available forest loss data to test deforestation effects on International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List categories of extinction risk for 19,432 vertebrate species worldwide. As expected, deforestation substantially increased the odds of a species being listed as threatened, undergoing recent upgrading to a higher threat category and exhibiting declining populations. More importantly, we show that these risks were disproportionately high in relatively intact landscapes; even minimal deforestation has had severe consequences for vertebrate biodiversity. We found little support for the alternative hypothesis that forest loss is most detrimental in already fragmented landscapes. Spatial analysis revealed high-risk hot spots in Borneo, the central Amazon and the Congo Basin. In these regions, our model predicts that 121-219 species will become threatened under current rates of forest loss over the next 30 years. Given that only 17.9% of these high-risk areas are formally protected and only 8.9% have strict protection, new large-scale conservation efforts to protect intact forests are necessary to slow deforestation rates and to avert a new wave of global extinctions.
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The connected nature of social-ecological systems has never been more apparent than in today’s globalized world. The ecosystem service framework and associated ecosystem assessments aim to better inform the science–policy response to sustainability challenges. Such assessments, however, often overlook distant, diffuse and delayed impacts that are critical for global sustainability. Ecosystem-services science must better recognise the off-stage impacts on biodiversity and ecosystem services of place-based ecosystem management, which we term ‘ecosystem service burdens’. These are particularly important since they are often negative, and have a potentially significant effect on ecosystem management decisions. Ecosystem-services research can better recognise these off-stage burdens through integration with other analytical approaches, such as life cycle analysis and risk-based approaches that better account for the uncertainties involved. We argue that off-stage ecosystem service burdens should be incorporated in ecosystem assessments such as those led by the Intergovernmental Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Taking better account of these off-stage burdens is essential to achieve a more comprehensive understanding of cross-scale interactions, a pre-requisite for any sustainability transition.
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This report presents the findings of an evidence gap map that assesses the evidence available on the effects of land-use change and forestry programmes on greenhouse gas emissions and human welfare outcomes. Our clearest finding is that there is a major gap in the evidence addressing effects on both emissions and human welfare outcomes, including food security. Moreover, few studies measured greenhouse gas emissions or food security directly. Available Online: http://www.3ieimpact.org/en/publications/3ie-evidence-gap-map-report-series/3ie-evidence-gap-map-report-3/
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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 benefits of “shared” mosaic landscapes composed of a mix of forest types, agricultural fields, grassland, and plantations. Increasingly, these scientific views have been depolarized, recognizing that both shared and spared landscapes have a role to play, depending on the context. However, it is less clear from the literature what drives actual policy-making related to land sparing and land sharing in developing countries and what the outcomes of these policies are. We therefore reviewed the international peer-reviewed literature for evidence of policies that aim at land sparing or land sharing in developing countries, the driving forces behind these policies and their outcomes. We also searched for evidence of whether the scientific debates have had an effect on land policy-making and explored the hypothesis that land sparing is the dominant land policy paradigm. We show that all countries represented in the studies have land sparing policies and half of them also have land sharing policies, although the latter appear inferior and under-funded. Drivers of land policies are very diverse, ranging from international commitments in conventions to various national-level pressures, but there is little evidence that scientific results have affected these policies. The policy outcomes in terms of ecosystem services and livelihoods are also very diverse. We conclude based on the studies reviewed that context is indeed very important for understanding different design and outcomes of land sparing and land sharing policies and that more evidence is needed on the processes for integration of rapidly evolving scientific debates in land policy-making in developing countries.
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Given the serious limitations of production-oriented frameworks, we offer here a new conceptual framework for how to analyze the nexus of food security and biodiversity conservation. We introduce four archetypes of social-ecological system states corresponding to win-win (e.g., agroecology), win-lose (e.g., intensive agriculture), lose-win (e.g., fortress conservation), and lose-lose (e.g., degraded landscapes) outcomes for food security and biodiversity conservation. Each archetype is shaped by characteristic external drivers, exhibits characteristic internal social-ecological features, and has characteristic feedbacks that maintain it. This framework shifts the emphasis from focusing on production only to considering social-ecological dynamics, and enables comparison among landscapes. Moreover, examining drivers and feedbacks facilitates the analysis of possible transitions between system states (e.g., from a lose-lose outcome to a more preferred outcome).