Liz Law studyarea page 1Land-use planning in complex landscapes is a major challenge. Meeting the needs and desires of multiple stakeholders competing for the same area of land is never easy. Some focus on the production values of the landscape, others on the conservation importance of the land. However, new CEED research just out on how to achieve the biggest biodiversity benefits in mixed tropical forests has shown it is possible to meet production expectations and conservation targets simultaneously.

"Tropical forest landscapes face competing demands for conserving biodiversity, sustaining ecosystem services and accommodating production systems such as forestry and agriculture," says Dr Elizabeth Law, the researcher leading this investigation on multifunctional tropical forests in Indonesia.

"Land-sparing and land-sharing have emerged as contrasting strategies to manage the trade-offs between production and biodiversity conservation."

Land sharing refers to production done simultaneously with conservation (on the same land). Land sparing refers to setting aside land in one place where conservation is maximised while maximising production over the rest of the land.

"Both strategies are evident in land-management policies in many places around the world," says Law.

"However, studies rarely report on the impacts of these strategies, assessed for multiple stakeholders and multiple ecosystem services, particularly in real landscapes. We set out to do this."

Elizabeth Law and colleagues focussed on a multifunctional landscape in Central Kalimantan, Indonesia being considered for forest protection, restoration and rural development. They analysed 10 alternative policy scenarios of how the land might be used. These included land-sharing, land-sparing and mixed strategies.

"We developed a novel optimisation process that identified 'production possibility frontiers'," explains Law.

"Production possibility frontiers show the maximum outcomes possible when land allocation is optimised for different purposes. We used these to highlight the trade-off between smallholder agriculture and oil palm, subject to the achievement of a set of carbon, timber and biodiversity conservation targets."

They found that mixed strategies gave the greatest flexibility to achieve targets, followed closely by land-sparing. The researchers noted that the strategies assessed required a minimum of 29–37% of the land to be placed in conservation zones. To achieve biodiversity targets, these would need to protect the majority of remaining forest, but might require little reforestation.

"All 10 policy strategies assessed in our case study are capable of achieving all stakeholder objectives, provided around a third of the landscape is conserved for biodiversity," says Law.

"What's more, in demonstrating this for the Ex-Mega Rice Project, we have shown that our novel methodological approach can provide practical options for the systematic analysis of complex, multifunctional landscapes. When integrated within a larger planning and implementation process, our technique could inform the design of land-use policies that maximise stakeholder satisfaction and minimise conflict."

More info: Elizabeth Law This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Law, EA, BA Bryan, E Meijaard, T Mallawaarachchi, MJ Struebig, ME Watts and KA Wilson (2016) Mixed policies give more options in multifunctional tropical forest landscapes. Journal of Applied Ecology. 

And see Elizabeths's blog for more details on the paper the methods applied.

The study region in Kalimantan is known as the Ex-Mega Rice Project Area. It was originally tropical peat forest that was converted for rice production in the 1990s. The venture failed and the government is now examining options for restoring some of the values that have been lost in the region.