MEX-PhD-3. Tropical agro-forest landscapes: linking plant diversity and actor strategies of land-use with ecosystem services

In Latin America, cattle ranching is practiced in tropical areas rich in cultural and biological diversity, creating a dynamic mosaic of forest patches and agricultural fields intermixed throughout the landscape. Plant –functional– diversity and landscape configuration play a role in the ecosystem processes and properties that underpin ecosystem services. Actor strategies incur in trade-offs and synergies in the delivery of ecosystem services. This entails a key challenge facing tropical landscapes, namely to reconcile biodiversity conservation and extensive agricultural productivity, particularly in the context of local food security and without further encroachment into remaining natural ecosystems. This study will be carried out in the La Sepultura Biosphere reserve, Mexico.

Aims: The main aim of this study is to reveal the ecological and social factors that shape tropical rangelands and their provision of ecosystem services (ES) to multiple beneficiaries. Two objectives follow: First, to understand how present ecosystem services and the ecosystem properties and processes underlying them, depend on plant (functional) biodiversity and landscape configurations; second, how trade-offs and/or synergies between ecosystem services, vary across rangelands and among varied farmers and actors.

Methodology: This study will be based on biophysical data collected in the rangelands and on interviews with farmers. Biophysical data will consist on plant functional and taxonomic composition, vegetation structure and diversity.

During interviews we will learn from farmers about their preferences, uses and needs, management practices, trade-offs on land use decisions and on the valuation of ecosystem services.