Andean rural communities have historically modified the landscapes they live in to obtain a range of ecosystem services, or nature’s contributions to people (NCP), crucial to their wellbeing. However, ongoing agricultural intensification has caused significant structural changes in traditional landscapes, leading to serious declines in biodiversity, impacting NCP provision, and ultimately local wellbeing. In order to improve decision making on land use and rural intensification, it is crucial to understand how local people identify and value the NCP provided by these changing landscapes.
Our aim was to conduct a spatially explicit and participatory assessment of NCP provided by the intensive agriculture-dominated Andean landscape of the Colombian municipality of Aquitania, considering multiple value dimensions (economical, ecological and sociocultural), and considering the perspectives of different local actors, thus identifying key areas for NCP provision and conservation.
We first conducted semi-structured interviews and participatory mapping with six key local and collective social actors to identify the number and location of NCP they identified, what value dimensions they associated with these NCP, and how important they considered them to be. Then, we used a spatial multi-criteria evaluation (MCE) to determine priority areas for NCP provision and conservation.
We found that local actors were able to identify a large number of NCP. However, there were important differences between actors: environmentalists identified significantly more regulating NCP than other actors, and tourism entrepreneurs focused on the economic value of non-material NCP, while big farmers assigned a lower average importance to regulating and non-material NCP than small-scale farmers. We also found spatial differences across the territory, with natural ecosystems, especially the high-mountain moorland of the páramos, being most important for regulating and non-material NCP. Buffer zones, key for regulating NCP, were often not recognised by actors making direct use of the land, who favoured these areas for agricultural production-related material NCP.
Our results show the importance of spatialising different points of view in NCP valuation exercises, as this is crucial for identifying trade-offs between different actors and NCP groups. As such, we present a participatory methodology that can be replicated in data scarce areas, providing information that can be used to strengthen land use decisions, taking into account priority areas for NCP provision and conservation. Local stakeholders should play an active part, improving the legitimacy of these decisions.
Ecosystem services; Nature's contributions to people; Spatial assessment; Stakeholder participation