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Understanding and integrating local perceptions of trees and forests into incentives for sustainable landscape management
We examine five forested landscapes in Africa (Cameroon, Madagascar, and Tanzania) and Asia (Indonesia and Laos) at different stages of landscape change. In allfive areas, forest cover (outside of protected areas) continues to decrease despite local people’s recognition of the importance of forest products and services. After forestconversion, agroforestry systems and fallows provide multiple functions and valued products, and retain significant biodiversity. But there are indications that such landuse is transitory, with gradual simplification and loss of complex agroforests and fallows as land use becomes increasingly individualistic and profit driven. In Indonesiaand Tanzania, farmers favor monocultures (rubber and oil palm, and sugarcane, respectively) for their high financial returns, with these systems replacing existing complex agroforests. In the study sites in Madagascar and Laos, investments in agroforests and new crops remain rare, despite government attempts to eradicate swidden systems and their multifunctional fallows. We discuss approaches toassessing local values related to landscape cover and associated goods and services. We highlight discrepancies between individual and collective responses in characterizing land use tendencies, and discuss the effects of accessibilityon land management. We conclude that a combination of social, economic, and spatially explicit assessment methods is necessary to inform land use planning.Furthermore, any efforts to modify current trends will require clear incentives, such as through carbon finance. We speculate on the nature of such incentive schemes and thepossibility of rewarding the provision of ecosystem services at a landscape scale and in a socially equitable manner.