Farmers show complex and contrasting perceptions on ecosystem services and their management

Heitor Mancini Teixeira*, Ardjan J. Vermue, Irene Maria Cardoso, Marielos Peña Claros, Felix J.J.A. Bianchi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

51 Citations (Scopus)


Agricultural systems are complex socio-ecological systems that are managed by farmers to achieve desired outcomes, including food production and other ecosystem services (ES). While farm management is a key factor for ES provision, farmers may widely differ in their awareness, ambition and skills to manage their systems. Currently there is a lack of understanding of farmers’ perception on ES, and how this is related to their management. We studied the management and perception of large scale farmers, conventional family farmers and agroecological family farmers in the Zona de Mata region in Brazil. Farmers were interviewed and constructed fuzzy cognitive maps (FCM) of their perception on ES. The FCM analysis revealed that in general, the perception of farmers on ES is highly complex and interconnected. Yet, agroecological family farmers showed a more complex perception on ES, which is associated with more diversified and autonomous agroecosystems. Both agroecological and conventional family farmers had a strong peasant identity, recognising more cultural ecosystem services than large scale farmers and relied more on production for consumption. Initiatives that aim to strengthen on-farm ecosystem services provision should be sensitive to farmer's perceptions and may need to consider using specific strategies for different farmer types.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)44-58
JournalEcosystem Services
Publication statusPublished - 1 Oct 2018


  • Agroecology
  • Agroecosystems
  • Biodiversity
  • Brazil
  • Fuzzy cognitive maps


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