Balancing regulating and provisioning ecosystem services: Comprehensive land-use concepts for effective conservation

This project is guided by the question: “How can land-use concepts be used to develop climate- and water-friendly land-use options for food, biofuel and timber production (provisioning services) in the Laipuna Valley in South Ecuador”. The aim of our research is the application and further development of existing complex and comprehensive land-use approaches and models for simultaneous analyses of various land-use options.

A growing trend to produce fuel ethanol from grain and continuing changes in human dietary, as observed with increasing standard of living, have led to increasing land-use conflicts. The observable high food prices are – at least in part – a consequence of the above development. They act as signals to increase production, often combined with severe environmental problems. Moreover, as another obviously undesirable consequence, high prices may reduce consumption, particularly among the world’s poor. Achieving sustainable land-use by means of an optimal allocation of scarce land resources to competing purposes is thus a major global challenge for the 21st century. In this line, the proposed project relies on the work previously conducted under project codes KN 586/5-1 and 2 in South Ecuador, as part of the RU 816. The results of this work are supposed to be transferred to the dry forest region around the Laipuna Reserve (Ecuador). We will couple several land-use models and modelling approaches developed as part of RU 816, all built on economic drivers (economic risk and return of land-use options), to conceptualise a land-use model and to develop land-use scenarios for the study area at landscape level. The existing land-use approaches will be coupled for this task and expanded by dietary energy and fuel energy outputs and by consequences of land-use scenarios for carbon pools and water protection. The available models, such as "Ecological-Economic Farm Diversification" (dynamic farmlevel perspective), "Optimized Land- Use Diversification" (comparative-static national level approach) and "Compartmental land-use approaches" (dynamic farm/landscape-level, so far scenario based), address various scales. It is intended to combine them by means of modelling various farm types which are representative for a specific area. Land-use scenarios include various food price projections and scenarios on vulnerability of production systems. The hypothesis to be tested is: “Increasing the production of food, biofuel and timber by appropriate landscape concepts for intensification and/or recultivation of abandoned lands reverses the adverse effects of indirect land-use change: Such strategies lead to more efficient land allocation and to decreasing prices, thus mitigating the pressure on forest ecosystems to reduce the costs of conservation strategies and those of providing regulating services.