, Volume 20, Issue 8, pp 1635-1654

Conservation in tropical landscape mosaics: the case of the cacao landscape of southern Bahia, Brazil

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A recent debate has contrasted two conservation strategies in agricultural landscapes; either “land sparing” farm development combining intensive production practices with forest set-asides, or “wildlife-friendly” farming with greater on-farm habitat value but lower yields. We argue that in established mosaic landscapes including old cacao production regions where natural forest has already been reduced to relatively small fragments, a combination of both strategies is needed to conserve biodiversity. After reviewing the evidence for the insufficiency of either strategy alone if applied to such landscapes, the paper focuses on the cacao production landscape of southern Bahia, Brazil, once the world’s second largest cacao producer. Here, small remaining areas of Atlantic Forest are embedded in a matrix dominated by traditional cacao agroforests, resulting in a landscape mosaic that has proven favorable to the conservation of the region’s high biodiversity. We show that current land use dynamics and public policies pose threats but also offer opportunities to conservation and describe a three-pronged landscape conservation strategy, consisting of (i) expansion of the protected areas system, (ii) promotion of productive yet biodiversity-friendly cacao farming practices, and (iii) assistance to land users to implement legally mandated on-farm reserves and voluntary private reserves. We discuss recent experiences concerning the implementation of this strategy, discuss likely future scenarios, and reflect on the applicability of the Bahian experience to biodiversity rich cacao production regions elsewhere in the tropics.