Regional-scale ecosystem service maps illustrating disparities for local communities in Southern Myanmar can guide landscape planning

25.11.2021 A recent study from BFH-HAFL’s Dr Mélanie Feurer, published in Ecosystem Services journal, highlights the importance of land rights for accessing multiple ecosystem services.

As human–nature interrelations are becoming ever more apparent in the joint strive towards the sustainable development goals, the concept of ecosystem services (ES) is highly useful for assessing the multiple benefits people obtain from different land uses.

In forest frontier landscapes, trade-offs almost always occur in efforts to achieve both ecological and social goals, especially if policies fail to take a holistic approach. The ES concept is a suitable way to assess local relations between humans and nature in an integrative way. Research on ES has made much progress on different valuation methods, including modelling and mapping. In the last decade, spatial assessments of ES have thus become increasingly relevant and have evolved by including not only supply but also demand and flows.

Unfortunately, few studies have been done in data-scarce tropical forest frontiers and these were limited in terms of area, land uses and number and types of ES. Aiming to evolve contemporary approaches, as part of the study, the research team used Bayesian networks to model and map nine ES for local stakeholders across Myanmar’s Tanintharyi Region. In tropical frontiers such as Tanintharyi Region, where overlapping land claims and (in)formal resource rights cause conflicts and hinder sustainable development planning, spatial ES assessments can provide opportunities to identify local stakeholder needs and plan landscape development accordingly.

Results of this study show that while there is a high supply of multiple ecosystem services at regional level, demand for these services is not fully covered, particularly in urban and rapidly developing agricultural areas. 

According to Mélanie Feurer: “Thanks to the evolving methodologies to combine existing (spatial) data with socio-cultural knowledge using participatory approaches, we were able to identify a clear connection between land tenure and ecosystem services outcomes for rural communities. For example, agricultural concessions and protected areas usually restrict access for the local population and thus limit their benefits from natural resources, whereas community forests enhance rights and improve human well-being.

The study was carried out by Mélanie Feurer as part of her PhD at the University of Bern, together with colleagues from CDE (University of Bern) and ETHZ.

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Subject area: Agriculture
Category: Research