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Biophysical and sociocultural factors underlying spatial trade-offs of ecosystem services in semiarid watersheds

Marina García-Llorente, Department of Applied Research and Agricultural Extension, ​Madrid Institute for Rural, Agricultural and Food Research and Development (IMIDRA); Social-Ecological Systems Laboratory, Department of Ecology, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
Irene Iniesta-Arandia, Social-Ecological Systems Laboratory, Department of Ecology, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
Bárbara A. Willaarts, Centro de Estudios e Investigación para la Gestión de de Riesgos Agrarios y Medioambientales, Universidad Politécnica de Madrid
Paula A Harrison, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford
Pam Berry, Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford
María del Mar Bayo, Laboratorio Analítico Bioclínico, Parque Científico Tecnológico de Almería
Antonio J Castro, Andalusian Center for the Assessment and Monitoring of Global Change, Department of Biology and Geology, Universidad de Almería; Department of Biological Sciences, Idaho State University
Carlos Montes, Social-Ecological Systems Laboratory, Department of Ecology, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid
Berta Martín-López, Social-Ecological Systems Laboratory, Department of Ecology, Universidad Autónoma de Madrid; Environmental Change Institute, University of Oxford

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-07785-200339

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Abstract

Biophysical and social systems are linked to form social-ecological systems whose sustainability depends on their capacity to absorb uncertainty and cope with disturbances. In this study, we explored the key biophysical and socio-cultural factors underlying ecosystem service supply in two semiarid watersheds of southern Spain. These included variables associated with the role that freshwater flows and biodiversity play in securing the system’s capacity to sustain essential ecosystem services and their relationship with social demand for services, local water governance, and land-use intensification. Our results reveal the importance of considering the invisible dimensions of water and biodiversity, i.e. green freshwater flows and trait-based indicators, because of their relevance to the supply of ecosystem services. Furthermore, they uncover the importance of traditional irrigation canals, a local water governance system, in maintaining the ecosystems’ capacity to supply services. The study also highlights the complex trade-offs that occur because of the spatial mismatch between ecosystem service supply (upstream) and ecosystem service demand (downstream) in watersheds. Finally, we found that land-use intensification generally resulted in losses of the biophysical factors that underpin the supply of some ecosystem services, increases in social demand for less diversified services, and the abandonment of local governance practices. Attempts to manage social-ecological systems toward sustainability at the local scale should identify the key biophysical and socio-cultural factors that are essential for maintaining ecosystem services and should recognize existing interrelationships between them. Land-use management should also take into account ecosystem service trade-offs and the consequences resulting from land-use intensification.

Key words

demand; freshwater flow; interaction; irrigation community; land-use intensification; social-ecological system; social preference; spatial pattern; trait-based indicator

Copyright © 2015 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087