NCP bundles in SEPLS
The bundles of NCP, or the collection of different types of NCP attributed to the project SEPLS, were diverse, encompassing regulating, material and non-material NCP. The provision of food (NCP 12) and habitats (NCP 1), among other contributions, were the most common components of NCP bundles. The prominence of these two NCP could have derived from the scope of the request for project proposals and the project selection process by the GEF-Satoyama Project, which focused on sub-grant projects aiming to mainstream biodiversity into primary production sectors. Accordingly, all ten projects worked with local communities involved in primary production, particularly household farming, artisanal fishing, hunting and gathering. The variety of primary production types practiced by these communities was reflected in the array of ecosystems, not only limited to farmlands, that our study found provided food to people in the SEPLS. This is one of the major differences from the literature on ES bundles, which commonly attributes food provision to croplands (Raudsepp-Hearne et al. 2010; Maes et al. 2012; Turner et al. 2014; Yang et al. 2015; Renard et al. 2015; Dittrich et al. 2017). Our results suggest the importance of the different types of ecosystems constituting SEPLS in providing food and nutrition, and ultimately ensuring food security for people living in SEPLS. Habitat provision (NCP 1) also scored highly. This provision was attributed not only to natural forests but also production lands, including managed forest, freshwater, grasslands and coastal systems, underlining the importance of these production lands and waters in providing habitat for wildlife. The high score was possibly due to our scoring method, in which the scores assigned to important species were counted as the habitat provision NCP scores of the ecosystem type within which the species were found. We argue that this is a necessary weighting rather than a bias, as otherwise the importance of the role of ecosystems in providing habitat could not be sufficiently recognized (Rodríguez et al. 2006).
A wide array of regulating contributions from SEPLS was identified. These included water flow regulation (NCP 6), pollination and seed dispersal (NCP 2) and hazard regulation (NCP 9), which were strongly attributed to natural forest, managed forest and coastal systems. Through these regulating contributions, the natural and semi-natural systems, which are often located on the periphery of SEPLS, stabilize the livelihood and security of people living in SEPLS alongside their direct role in providing food and other materials.
Our results also highlight the importance of the non-material contributions that SEPLS offer, such as learning and inspiration (NCP 15), which often underlie the co-production of several other NCP. In Thailand for example, the Karen youths learnt indigenous religious and livelihood practices in SEPLS, including rotational farming, from the elders. Such interactions across generations and between people and nature constitute a learning process that has enabled the co-production of crops and the safeguarding of water, soils and other NCP over generations. In this way, SEPLS clearly demonstrate the intention of NCP which is that it further expands the people and nature conceptual framework beyond a generalized perspective. This is achieved by including a context-specific perspective that recognizes unique local or cultural features with individual applicability to certain socio-ecological settings which cannot be transferred universally (Kadykalo et al. 2019; Martín-López et al. 2019).
The multiplicity of NCP and their synergies within SEPLS as described above contrast to the literature on ES bundles that commonly depicts trade-offs between provisioning and other ES (Rodríguez et al. 2006; Raudsepp-Hearne et al. 2010; Maes et al. 2012; Turner et al. 2014; Howe et al. 2014; Yang et al. 2015; Renard et al. 2015; Dittrich et al. 2017). The synergies between multiple NCP might partially explain the characteristics of NCP bundles in SEPLS but were possibly derived from methodological differences. We used the eighteen NCP reporting categories (Díaz et al. 2018) as cues to elicit the relative importance of different NCP derived from SEPLS in a comprehensive manner, including those which cannot be quantified. Most ES bundle studies identify from existing data the ES types that are quantifiable (Raudsepp-Hearne et al. 2010; Maes et al. 2012; Turner et al. 2014; Yang et al. 2015; Renard et al. 2015; Dittrich et al. 2017). Inevitably, this limits the type of ESs within the scope, and sometimes involves proxy variables of which the validity to represent specific ESs is yet to be sufficiently validated (Raudsepp-Hearne et al. 2010; Turner et al. 2014; Yang et al. 2015). We also note that our approach was not designed to critically assess the trade-offs between NCP as is often done in ES bundle studies (Raudsepp-Hearne et al. 2010; Maes et al. 2012; Turner et al. 2014; Yang et al. 2015; Renard et al. 2015; Dittrich et al. 2017). Trade-off analysis requires the quantity of NCP in absolute terms over time and spaces, which our study did not have. Therefore, whilst suggesting the potential synergies between a wide array of NCP in SEPLS, our results do not necessarily show the strength of such synergies or trade-offs compared to preceding studies.
Options to enhance synergies among multiple NCP in SEPLS
Our results suggest specific management options that are instrumental in enhancing or maintaining specific NCP, particularly food and habitat provision, and that make them compatible with other NCP. Packaging multiple management options, which aimed to enhance different NCP in the individual projects, generated synergistic NCP outcomes. The project outcomes pertaining to food and habitat were prominent in our results because, as we understand, these NCP were tangible and thus relatively easy to measure using indicators. Beyond these NCP, our results imply synergies in the NCP outcomes including those that are difficult to measure, particularly regulating contributions, e.g., pollination, seed dispersal and the regulation of freshwater flow, soil, climate and disasters, which mostly cascade down from the restoration or the safeguarding of habitat integrity (Haines-Young and Potschin 2010; Kandziora et al. 2013).
The management options focusing on food and livelihoods while ensuring compatibility with other NCP include organic agriculture, eco-labelling and branding, NTFP, improved agricultural practices and ecotourism. Organic agriculture generally restricts the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides which in turn reduces water eutrophication and biodiversity impacts (Tuomisto et al. 2012). Certification and branding can help improve the economic viability of organic agriculture and thus encourage its wider adoption (Qiao et al. 2015). NTFP such as forest honey production, improved agricultural practices and ecotourism can contribute to ecological integrity and help local communities improve their livelihoods if they are sustainably managed (Moegenburg and Levey 2002; Negi et al. 2011). These management options are instrumental in minimizing the trade-offs between food and other NCP, as well as in addressing inequalities in conservation which tend to limit local communities’ access to land and resources.
That most projects featured the food for livelihood improvement aspect is of particular significance. Besides the importance in diet (and therefore, the health) of people, food is an expression of cultural identity and pride (Pakagayo Association for Sustainable Development and Karen Network for Culture and Environment 2019). Associated activities included capacity building, improved subsistence food production without increasing the negative impacts on biodiversity (e.g., Madagascar, Comoros, Colombia, Myanmar), gaining a competitive advantage in the market by certification (Peru), and preserving a cultural identity (Thailand, India). In this way, food can be considered an effective entry point to attract and expand on the interest and engagement of local communities. Project interventions that focus on food target behavioural changes more clearly than many other interventions that focus on cognitive and attitudinal changes (Nilsson et al. 2020). Thus, the food-focused interventions are expected to be more effective in achieving better conservation outcomes.
Habitat-focused options that enhance synergies with other NCP include participatory biodiversity monitoring, habitat restoration, co-management and conservation agreement. Participatory biodiversity monitoring enlightens people’s awareness of the value of species and their habitats. Habitat restoration generally improves several other NCP which cascade down from the restored ecosystem, particularly those regulating NCP (Kandziora et al. 2013). Restoration of highly productive ecosystems, such as mangrove restoration, combined with repopulation or natural feed aquaculture of species of high value on the seafood market, has the potential to increase food provision and local livelihoods alongside the improvement of other NCP. Fisheries co-management, including through the designation of fish conservation zones and the detailed measures to protect threatened fish species for artisanal fisheries, was instrumental in addressing trade-off in food provision (NCP 12) over time, and between food provision and the maintenance of options deriving from biodiversity below water (NCP 18). Conservation agreements with farmers, which secure their commitment to habitat protection on their lands and adjacent protected areas, combined with incentive measures such as technical support to improved agricultural practices, can enhance synergies between food production, habitat provision and the maintenance of future options.
Social, behavioural and cognitive responses that embrace multiple stakeholders and traditional knowledge are powerful tools in addressing inequalities in managing SEPLS, as well as in accessing the benefits accruing from those SEPLS. Community empowerment is central to these options, including capacity building and the establishment of inclusive CBOs that bring together people of different groups and sectors, thus reducing inequalities among them. Indigenous knowledge and practices are often an integral part of the social construct of SEPLS that have enabled harmonious interactions between people and nature for generations. Hence, documentation and effective use of such knowledge and practices in the modern context can ensure people’s access to and sustainable co-production of NCP. Such an approach includes, among others, integration of indigenous knowledge and practices into organic agriculture and sustainable fisheries methods, as well as lobbying for their social recognition using participatory GIS mapping.
Good governance would provide an enabling framework upon which multiple management interventions targeting different NCP can be integrated and sustained for long periods, thereby generating synergies. The cases subject to this study accomplished this through mediation among different stakeholder groups including local communities, NGOs and academia, and by integrating knowledge systems associated with and gained through these interventions. All these initiatives emerged from the local level and worked with or were aligned to national- or sub-national-level institutions to various extents (Table 3). Among these, five projects institutionalised mechanisms to link management responsibilities to higher levels of government, including co-management or conservation concession arrangements with national and sub-national governments. In such settings, a top-down prescription of institutional guidelines and management decisions integrated the knowledge generated and the partnerships formed through local implementations, providing a potential for scaling up the impacts. These rightly embody landscape approaches (Sayer et al. 2013), a governance concept to sustainably manage the lands and seas in which productive land uses compete with biodiversity. Nonetheless, there is no single code that applies to all, as all cases are embedded in unique governance opportunities and challenges. Therefore, it is imperative to take on a more nuanced perspective on top-down and bottom-up governance to administer shared learning from different interventions.
Limitations and the way forward
Our results show notable differences between the bundles of NCP that the project proponents identified as important for people in SEPLS (Fig. 3) and the sets of NCP enhanced or safeguarded by the project interventions (Fig. 4). Whilst these agree on the importance of habitat (NCP 1) and food (NCP 12) provisions, the effects of the project interventions on other NCP that local people recognized as important, particularly regulating and non-material NCP, were insufficiently captured in the project monitoring and evaluation frameworks. In theory, the cascading model suggests that enhanced habitat integrity improves regulating NCP (Haines-Young and Potschin 2010; Kandziora et al. 2013). Considering that SEPLS are important bio-cultural entities with which cultural and relational values are often interwoven, the enhancement of food and habitat provisions could simultaneously have enhanced non-material NCP, including learning, inspiration and identities.
The nature of the projects, which primarily aimed to enhance livelihoods, food production and environmental conservation most likely led to an emphasis on the selection of indicators of food and habitat. Also, the higher representation of food NCP by the selected indicators is consistent with the general preferences of human societies for more tangible NCP (Foley et al. 2005; Rodríguez et al. 2006). Indicators of regulating NCP were entirely absent. Quantifying changes in regulating NCP requires more intensive monitoring efforts and more time for effects to become visible than project funding sizes and durations allow. This could be the additional reason that these indicators were not used. The projects stipulated the indicators that relatively indirectly represented non-material NCP. Such intangible aspects of NCP are not easily measurable (Satz et al. 2013) and thus tend to be embedded within more tangible project objectives.
The literature on ES bundles clarifies how NCP of different types can be quantified (Raudsepp-Hearne et al. 2010; Maes et al. 2012; Turner et al. 2014; Yang et al. 2015; Renard et al. 2015; Ament et al. 2017; Dittrich et al. 2017). Material contributions are commonly measured by cropland coverage, material stock (e.g. livestock density and timber biomass volume) and production outputs. Modelling that draws on land use and land cover data is now commonly used to measure regulating NCP. Non-material NCP are quantified using relatively simple, proxy metrics. Such metrics of non-material NCP vary considerably with context, but tend to represent recreational uses of natural lands and seas relatively well.
The above suggests the utility of a more deliberate and balanced selection of indicators if the objective is to better understand the bundles of NCP in SEPLS and the effects of different management interventions on them. The indicators of material NCP adopted by the projects were consistent with those in the ES bundle literature. Acquisition of parameters necessary for modelling regulating NCP continues to be prohibitively demanding for community-based projects. Simple metrics suggested by local communities can be good substitutes, such as the extent and quality of woodland covering important watersheds, or mangrove areas that shelter coastal settlements from coastal hazards. Contextually appropriate proxies of non-material NCP in SEPLS could only come from people living in SEPLS. These include identifying and protecting the important areas that constitute their sense of place and cultural practices, as well as the number of people in different generations who inherit relevant traditional knowledge and practices. To legitimize such locally identified indicators of non-material NCP and thus to enable comparison across time and space, it would be beneficial to refer to the protocols on cultural ecosystem services indicators such as those proposed by Hernández-Morcillo et al. (2013) and Hirons et al. (2016). Where the changes in NCP require long periods of time to appear after project interventions, their short-term proxies based on the logic model (Margoluis et al. 2009, 2013; Mascia et al. 2014) or the cascade model (Kandziora et al. 2013) could be used. Devising these indicators in landscape or seascape projects will help field practitioners learn to enhance synergies between NCP, and researchers and the broader conservation community can access untapped knowledge of NCP. More specifically, the identification of NCP bundles from local people’s perspectives, if combined with mapping and modelling techniques, help us to better contextualise the analysis of NCP bundles.