Introduction and background
Ecosystem services represent the benefits society receives from ecosystems, natural or modified by human use. We hypothesize that functional diversity impacts ecosystem processes potentially leading to the surpassing of tipping points and, consequently, abrupt system state changes. Thus, it is vital to assess to what extent this will also affect thresholds in socio-economic systems, i.e. in the provision of ecosystem services. In the Amazon MAP region (Madre de Dios, Peru; Acre, Brazil; Pando, Bolivia) it has been hypothesized that further loss of ecosystem services may drastically impact social-ecological systems.
The objective of the socio-economic study is to assess which ecosystem services are critically affected and may, therefore, constitute a surpassing of tipping points, and which are expected to be stable as functional diversity shows large changes due to land use intensification. We aim at developing and assessing indicators allowing us to detect the criticality of components of the systems in the MAP region.
We apply a suite of methods comprising participatory systems analysis as well as household surveys. Two rounds of workshops with key stakeholders were conducted in each MAP country in a standardized procedure and analyzed regarding the main system characteristics of the identified components. To assess the relation between ecosystem characteristics and socio-economic variables we are conducting a representative survey with 300 households in each MAP region country following a transect of land use with decreasing biodiversity (as proxy for functional diversity) from forests to intensive pastures or crop fields.
We find that the components of the social-ecological systems differ substantially between the regions in the three MAP countries. In all three countries we find that most components are already considered critical for system behavior as modelled based on stakeholder assessments. Data from the household surveys are forthcoming. Preliminary results indicate that non-market and intangible ecosystem services are perceived to be critical with decreasing biodiversity of land use systems studied along the transects.
Our study demonstrates the conceptual basis and empirical application of a method to distinguish the criticality of components in social-ecological systems and relate functional diversity to ecosystem services in the context of nearing tipping points. Once the complete results of the study are available this will serve both scientists and policy makers to target those components that are critical for system behavior and develop strategies to strengthen buffering processes and system components to increase the systems’ resilience.
Ecosystem services, systems, criticality, tipping points