[LINK] Land-use choices follow profitability at the expense of ecological functions in Indonesian smallholder landscapes

Aerial photo (Photo: Heiko Faust) (a) and changes in the land-use composition (b) of the studied landscapes around the national park Bukit Duabelas and the Harapan Forest Restoration concession in Jambi Province, Indonesia from 1990 to 2011, based on land-use classification inferred from remote sensing. Rainforest (dark green diamonds), rubber (light green filled circles), oil palm (red squares), shrub/bushland (grey up-pointing triangles), and ‘others’ (blue down-pointing triangles), which includes amongst others food crops, timber and fruit tree plantations. See Table 1 for the 1990–2011 land-use change matrix.
Aerial photo (Photo: Heiko Faust) (a) and changes in the land-use composition (b) of the studied landscapes around the national park Bukit Duabelas and the Harapan Forest Restoration concession in Jambi Province, Indonesia from 1990 to 2011, based on land-use classification inferred from remote sensing. Rainforest (dark green diamonds), rubber (light green filled circles), oil palm (red squares), shrub/bushland (grey up-pointing triangles), and ‘others’ (blue down-pointing triangles), which includes amongst others food crops, timber and fruit tree plantations. See Table 1 for the 1990–2011 land-use change matrix.

Smallholder-dominated agricultural mosaic landscapes are highlighted as model production systems that deliver both economic and ecological goods in tropical agricultural landscapes, but trade-offs underlying current land-use dynamics are poorly known. Here, using the most comprehensive quantification of land-use change and associated bundles of ecosystem functions, services and economic benefits to date, we show that Indonesian smallholders predominantly choose farm portfolios with high economic productivity but low ecological value. The more profitable oil palm and rubber monocultures replace forests and agroforests critical for maintaining above- and below-ground ecological functions and the diversity of most taxa. Between the monocultures, the higher economic performance of oil palm over rubber comes with the reliance on fertilizer inputs and with increased nutrient leaching losses. Strategies to achieve an ecological-economic balance and a sustainable management of tropical smallholder landscapes must be prioritized to avoid further environmental degradation.

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