CIFOR at the 54th Annual Meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation

ATBC 2017: Ecological and social dimensions of tropical biodiversity conservation

9-14 July, 2017
Merida - Yucatan, Mexico

CIFOR invites you to its presentations at the 54th Annual Meeting of the Association for Tropical Biology and Conservation, with scientists speaking on tropical landscapes, agrarian change, deforestation and restoration, and many other topics.


11 July, 2017

11:00 - 13:00

Yucatan 4

Agrarian Change Project Symposium: The impacts of agrarian change on local communities: Sharing experience from the field

Terry Sunderland
Ronju Ahammad
Agrarian changes and rural livelihoods in an upland landscape of Bangladesh
[presented by Terry Sunderland]

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Background: Trajectories of land use change poses great challenges in sustaining rural livelihoods and environmental benefits. In the recent past decades, the south-eastern upland landscape of Chittagong Hill Tracts region in Bangladesh has experienced changes in agricultural land use accompanied with forest conversion and the establishment of monoculture plantations. However, there is a lack of understanding on the changes and associated livelihood impacts on rural households. This study examines how the agriculture and forest-based livelihood provisions have interacted over recent years and assess the implications of this agrarian change on food security and income.

Methods: We interviewed 304 households with structured questionnaires in three sites (ie. remote, intermediate and on-road). The questionnaires covered information regarding the changes of agriculture and forest land uses and associated contributions to food production and income at household level.

Results: In over half of the households surveyed, the respondents experienced a decrease of their overall farm land with a concomitant loss of crop variety and livestock resources. Farming area relatively increased in the remote site associated with land/forest clearing activities, with almost 90 percent households perceived decrease of the forest cover, yet food sufficiency and annual income remain low here. While farming areas decreased in intermediate- and on-road sites but increased monoculture fruit garden, intensive cash crops and wage activities contributed to greater food production and income. Two-thirds of the households experienced more travel time and distance required for forest product collections in the landscape. While the loss of forest cover largely affected intermediate- and on-road communities in accessibility and availability of the forest products, fuel wood and fruit availability increased to a certain extent due to the planting of trees on farms and monoculture establishment.

Discussion and conclusion: Overall the study has provided insights into agrarian changes with both positive and negative social-ecological outcomes. We recommend that further investigation of integrated strategies for landscape management might be effective to deal with the various changes and complex problems of food production and conservation at the landscape scale.

Stephanie Tomscha
How do ecosystem services vary in different agrarian systems? A cross-site perspective
[presented by Bronwen Powell]
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Background: The majority of deforestation in tropical forests has resulted from agricultural expansion. A shift in the discourse around food security towards increasing attention to nutrition and dietary quality, paired with growing evidence that people living in areas with more forest cover have better dietary quality than those living in areas with less forest cover has pushed the conversation beyond a dichotomy of trade-offs between conservation and food security. The pathways linking forest cover and dietary diversity are not yet understood. Intensification of agricultural production may help explain these links; driving both homogenization of crop species, and thus diets, as well as the loss of forest cover. The role of agricultural practices and production diversity as a pathway from agrarian change and intensification to changes in both landscape structure and human diets has not been well studied. This presentation will include emerging evidence and new research directions.

Methods: Data from more than 2000 household surveys across different agrarian systems ranging from subsistence farming to intensive monocultures multiple tropical countries were collected. We examine household agricultural practices to better understand the impact of different agrarian systems on the diversity of food production and the relationships between food production diversity and diet in different agricultural settings.

Results: Results showed that total richness of crop types produced by households was greatest in subsistence agricultural systems and lowest in intensified agricultural systems. We also found that certain foods were more likely to be produced or gathered in different agrarian systems, particularly in subsistence systems and mixed agrarian systems. In many settings crop richness (production diversity) is associated with dietary diversity, these data will enable testing this relationship across different levels of agricultural intensification.

Discussion/Conclusion: There is growing evidence the production (crop) diversity is linked to dietary diversity and diet quality, however the role purchased food and market integration is poorly understood. These relationships have not yet been examined in relationship to agricultural intensification, landscape structure or landscape diversity. Building on these and other data sets, there is great potential to expand the understanding of how landscape structure impacts diet and if and how food production acts as a pathway for these relationships. These avenues of investigation also hold important insights for the growing body of research examining the relationships between landscape structure and ecosystem services for agriculture. Understanding the balance of food production vs. local consumption is particularly important for maintaining livelihoods, and to inform the management of landscape that must provide multiple benefits simultaneously.

Frédéric Baudron
Beyond the land sparing vs. land sharing framework: views from agricultural scientists
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In the last decade, the land sparing and land sharing approaches have provided the main framework for policy makers to debate and act on the impact of agriculture on nature. This framework has been useful in bringing attention to this issue; but it has been driven mainly by conservation ecologists. As agricultural scientists with practical experience in developing, testing and promoting alternative forms of agriculture in some of the most biodiversity-rich areas of Latin America, Eastern and Southern Africa and South Asia, the authors of this paper argue that the framework suffers from a number of limitations when considering farming and rural livelihoods. Four of these limitations are explored in four separate sections: (1) the lack of pragmatism and flexibility when considering agriculture, (2) the lack of consideration for what happens after the farm gate and for farmers’ objectives, (3) the lack of consideration for synergies between agriculture and biodiversity, and (4) the overly mechanistic way the framework links agriculture to biodiversity. In each section, approaches to overcome these limitations are proposed, and illustrated with concrete examples from Latin America, Eastern and Southern Africa and South Asia.
Sarah E. Gergel
Can mapping forest loss, fragmentation, and change help improve long-term comparative analyses of livelihoods
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Jean-Yves Duriaux
Consequences of forest loss for smallholders and their response in Southern Ethiopia
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Deforestation may have a number of negative effects on rural livelihoods, however rural households do not passively sustain these situation but actively respond, as shown by several examples of farmers led reforestation. Our goal is to understand the outcomes for rural livelihoods of different deforestation trends and land use patterns and to explore the households’ responses. Three sites decreasing in their tree cover, access to forest and increasing in their cropland proportion, but otherwise with almost identical conditions were selected in Southern Ethiopia. A mix of methods were used between September 2014 and September 2015: remote sensing, tree counting, household surveys, participatory rural appraisal and focus group discussions. A change from forest and grassland to cropland resulted in improved food security and income but led to a reduction of construction materials, fuelwood and livestock numbers across all sites. As a household’s response to the scarcity of these products, reforestation occurred in all zones at different times: first in the intermediate zone -high tree cover, no access to forest-, then in the zone most distant to the forest -most deforested-, and finally closest to the forest -highest tree cover-. Reforestation occurred through Eucalyptus establishment and natural regeneration –based on inhabitants’ decisions- . Homestead establishment and proximity to the homestead were found to promote reforestation and perennial land uses: tree cover, woodlots, grasslands and false banana –Enset - plantations. Currently, livestock ownership and its equality increased with decreasing cropland specialization and decreasing distance to forest; with implications observed in wealth indicators. Livestock and trees were mentioned as assets that reduce vulnerability and support poorer households. We conclude that farmer led reforestation occurred as an active response to recover diminished ecosystem services, and that although crop specialization originally improved food security and income, it later promoted inequalities, vulnerability and reduced wealth; oppositely a higher proportion of perennial land uses within the agricultural matrix and access to forest could help to reduce these problems. 
Josh Van Vianen
Landscape complexity and dietary diversity: Linking deforestation and agrarian change to dietary transitions
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Background: Changing demands for agricultural products driven by ongoing population growth and shifting socioeconomic demographics is leading to transitions in dietary patterns throughout the developing world. Global demand for agricultural products is expected to increase by 1% per year over the period of 2007-2050—equivalent to a 60% increase in production over the same period. Concurrently, a global nutrition transition is manifesting itself in the increased demand for certain agricultural commodities, in particular vegetable oils, refined carbohydrates and animal source foods. Smallholder family farms still dominate global agricultural systems, comprising 98% of all farms and covering 52% of agricultural land. Yet, these farms are increasingly becoming commercialized and transitioning away from diverse subsistence systems towards specialized market orientated operations leading to dramatic shifts in the scale and nature of agricultural landscapes.

Methods: How these agricultural transitions affect the environment, ecosystem service provisioning, and the livelihoods, well-being and health of local populations is a key focus of this project. To answer these questions, we have applied a novel methodological approach as part of the Agrarian Change Project which aims to explore the nature of forest loss and landscape-scale agricultural transitions in tropical forested areas across seven countries. We examine how commodity-driven changes in agricultural landscapes manifest themselves as dietary transitions at the local scale which represents an often overlooked social dimension of tropical conservation.

Results: Here we present evidence to support the notion that deforestation and agrarian intensification of landscapes can drive nutritional transitions at a local scale and that agricultural commercialization may improve food security, but its effects upon dietary diversity are yet to be fully understood.

Discussion: Understanding the roles that forests play—beyond the maintenance of biodiversity and ecosystem services—in the diversity of rural diets may provide conservationists with yet another tool to address issues surrounding land use change, rapid rural development and the associated environmental impacts.

11:00 - 16:00

Yucatan 1

Multiple-use forests: can forest conservation and socio-economic development be combined?

Amy Duchelle
Conservation and livelihood impacts of subnational REDD+ initiatives in the Brazilian Amazon
Brazil became an international showcase for forest conservation through its remarkable reduction in Amazonian deforestation from 2004 to 2013.  In this context, we use a rigorous quasi-experimental approach to assess the impacts of different types of conservation instruments on forest cover and smallholder wellbeing at five subnational REDD+ sites in Brazil.  This presentation highlights the contribution of incentive-based conservation instruments in reducing deforestation, while balancing out the negative wellbeing effects of regulatory measures alone.
12 July, 2017


Yucatan 4

A landscape perspective on biodiversity conservation and management in oil palm mosaics

Terry Sunderland
Have integrated landscape approaches reconciled societal and environmental issues in the tropics?
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Landscape approaches to integrated land management have recently gained considerable attention in the scientific literature and international fora. The approach is gaining increasing support at governmental and intergovernmental levels, as well as being embraced by a host of international research and development agencies. In an attempt to determine whether, and how, these approaches compare with previous conservation and development paradigms, we reviewed the implementation of integrated landscape approaches across the tropics. Within the scientific literature we fail to find a single applied example of the landscape approach in the tropics that adequately – that is with reliable, in depth collection and reporting of data – demonstrated the effective balancing of social and environmental trade-offs through multi-scale processes of negotiation for enhanced outcomes. However, we provide an assessment of 150 case studies from unpublished grey literature and 24 peer-reviewed studies that exhibit basic characteristics of landscape approaches. Our findings indicate that landscape approaches show potential as a framework to reconcile conservation and development and improve social capital, enhance community income and employment opportunities as well as reduce land degradation and conserve natural resources. However, comprehensive data on the social and environmental effects of these benefits remain elusive. We identify key contributing factors towards implementation, and progress, of landscape approaches and our findings suggest that multi-level, or polycentric, governance structures relate well with intervention success. We conclude that landscape approaches are a welcome departure from previous unsuccessful attempts at reconciling conservation and development in the tropics but, despite claims to the contrary, remain nascent in both their conceptualization and implementation.

11:00 - 16:00

Yucatan 1

Conservation challenges in the agro-forest frontier; past present and future

Manuel Guariguata
Connecting the local and the global: the role of participatory monitoring in forest restoration
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Global forest restoration initiatives present an unparalleled opportunity to reverse the trend of land degradation and participatory monitoring could play a crucial role in providing accountability, generating local buy-in and catalyzing learning in monitoring systems. A recent review carried out by CIFOR confirms that local people can reliably collect accurate data on forest change, drivers and threats and that local monitoring can cost up to one-third of professional monitoring. However, there must be sufficient local incentives and support, including orienting the restoration activities to meet local goals and priorities. Successful participatory monitoring systems can quickly generate information that is adequate to answer the questions and needs of local stakeholders – not necessarily scientifically rigorous data. To this end, a scalable, multisite forest restoration monitoring system (i.e. not a monitoring protocol) should be built on a small number of indicators shared by all relevant sites, with the flexibility to determine other indicators to respond to local needs. The system should emphasize the creation of learning networks to facilitate the connection of stakeholders at multiple levels. All this will be essential for upscaling local efforts into measurable national targets in light of existing international restoration commitments.


Yucatan 1 & 2

The Role of Tropical Secondary Forests in Conservation and Restoration

Presently, secondary forest regrowth following agricultural land use represents a major component of human modified landscapes across the tropics. In this panel, researchers from different disciplines, organizations, and countries, will discuss the importance of second-growth forests for conserving and restoring biodiversity, and recovering ecosystem functions and services. The panel will address questions regarding the biophysical, socio-economic, and cultural opportunities and limitations of secondary forest for conservation and restoration, and on the role of second-growth forest in achieving international goals such as the United Nations Aichi Biodiversity Targets. 

View presentation:
Key governance issues and the fate of secondary forests as a tool for large-scale forest restoration

Robin Chazdon (University of Connecticut)
Miguel Martínez Ramos. Senior Researcher at the Instituto de Investigaciones en Ecosistemas y Sustentabilidad, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México

F. Bongers. Senior Professor, Forest Ecology and Management Group, Wageningen University, Netherlands
Robin Chazdon
Thomas Rudel
Bernardo Baeta Neves Strassburg
Laura C. Schneider  
Manuel R. Guariguata

Since the middle of the last century, understanding the effects of human disturbances on the resilience of tropical forests has been central to the study of tropical biology and conservation. In the XXI century, this area of research has grown and broadened, as second-growth forests are becoming the dominant vegetation in tropical regions around the globe due to increasing pressures imposed by human activities on forest ecosystems (e.g., land use change, climate global change, introduction of exotic species). New approaches (functional, phylogenetic, socio-ecological) have emerged to understand the influence of biophysical and human factors on forest regeneration and on the structure, dynamics, and functions of secondary forests. Further, strong concern is mounting regarding the importance of secondary forests for biodiversity conservation, for large-scale reforestation programs, and for the role of these forests in carbon sequestration and mitigating effects of global climate change. This panel will address key questions about the state of the art of the ecology of secondary tropical forests and the role these forests can play for conservation and restoration in the Anthropocene. The panel will include researchers from different disciplines of natural and social sciences that will discuss these aspects and pin-point guidelines for future research and policies for conserving biodiversity and to restore degraded lands in human modified landscapes across the world's tropics.