Ecosystem services, land-cover change, and stakeholders: Finding a sustainable foothold for a semiarid biodiversity hotspot (2009)

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Land-cover change has been identified as one of the most important drivers of change in ecosystems and their services. However, information on the consequences of land cover change for ecosystem services and human well-being at local scales is largely absent. Where information does exist, the traditional methods used to collate and communicate this information represent a significant obstacle to sustainable ecosystem management. Embedding science in a social process and solving problems together with stakeholders are necessary elements in ensuring that new knowledge results in desired actions, behaviour changes and decisions.

The authors have attempted to address this identified information gap, as well as the way information is gathered, by quantifying the local-scale consequences of land-cover change for ecosystem services in the Little Karoo region, a semiarid biodiversity hotspot in South Africa. Their work is part of a stakeholder-engaged process that aims to answer questions inspired by the beneficiaries and managers of ecosystem services. They mapped and quantified the potential supply of, and changes in, five ecosystem services: production of forage, carbon storage, erosion control, water flow regulation and tourism. Their results demonstrated substantial (20%–50%) declines across ecosystem services as a result of land-cover change in the Little Karoo. The authors linked these changes in land-cover to the political and land-use history of the region. they found that the natural features that deliver the Little Karoo’s ecosystem services, similar to other semiarid regions, are not being managed in a way that recognises their constraints and vulnerabilities. There is a resulting decline in ecosystem services, leading to an increase in unemployment and vulnerability to shocks, and narrowing future options. The authors have proposed a way forward for the region that includes immediate action and restoration, mechanisms to fund this action, the development of future economic activity including tourism and carbon markets, and new ways that the science–stakeholder partnership can foster these changes. Although they acknowledge the radical shifts required, they have highlighted the opportunities provided by the resilience and adaptation potential of semiarid regions, their biodiversity and their inhabitants.
Year: 2009
Language: English
In: Ecology and Society 14(1): 38. http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol14/iss1/art38/,

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 Record created 2011-12-21, last modified 2013-01-17