Understanding and integrating local perceptions of trees and forests into incentives for sustainable landscape management

Jean Laurent Pfund*, John Daniel Watts, Manuel Boissière, Amandine Boucard, Renee Marie Bullock, Andree Ekadinata, Sonya Dewi, Laurène Feintrenie, Patrice Levang, Salla Rantala, Douglas Sheil, Terence Clarence Heethom Sunderland, Zora Lea Urech

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

61 Citations (Scopus)


We examine five forested landscapes in Africa (Cameroon, Madagascar, and Tanzania) and Asia (Indonesia and Laos) at different stages of landscape change. In all five areas, forest cover (outside of protected areas) continues to decrease despite local people's recognition of the importance of forest products and services. After forest conversion, agroforestry systems and fallows provide multiple functions and valued products, and retain significant biodiversity. But there are indications that such land use is transitory, with gradual simplification and loss of complex agroforests and fallows as land use becomes increasingly individualistic and profit driven. In Indonesia and 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 to assessing 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 accessibility on 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 the possibility of rewarding the provision of ecosystem services at a landscape scale and in a socially equitable manner.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)334-349
Number of pages16
JournalEnvironmental Management
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Agroforestry
  • Biodiversity conservation
  • Landscape management
  • Local perceptions

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