A multi-level assessment of changes in stakeholder constellations, interest and influence on ecosystem services under different landscape scenarios in southwestern Ethiopia

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Growing global interconnections facilitate inter-regional flows of ecosystem services (ES). Several studies have focused on the opportunities, risks, and governance of telecoupled ES. However, considerable theoretical, methodological, and empirical gaps exist regarding how future demand for ES will shape trajectories of land use change, the bundles of ecosystem services and related livelihoods provided by future landscapes. This paper explores how multi-level stakeholder constellations, interests, and influence on ES change with a shift in the landscape from the current landscape to alternative future scenario landscapes. We integrated three methodological concepts: space-for-time substitution, scenario planning, and multi-level stakeholder interest and influence mapping. We focused on a smallholder farming landscape in southwestern Ethiopia that is characterized by, and sensitive to, rapid social-ecological change. We build on previous research that developed four plausible scenarios of landscape change for the landscape over the coming 20 years: the “Cash crops”, “Coffee investors”, “Biosphere reserve”, and “Food first” scenarios. We treated the current (focal) landscape as the baseline. Based on space-for-time substitution, we selected four existing landscapes nearby as proxies representing the types of changes described in the four scenarios. In both focal and scenario landscapes, we then identified stakeholders and interviewed them about their interest and influence related to ES (n = 122). Stakeholder constellations, interests, and influences on ES differed considerably between the focal and the scenario landscapes. Generally, a shift to the “Cash crops”, “Coffee investors”, and “Food first” scenarios increased the proportion of local, regional and global private organizations that engaged with the landscape. Many of these stakeholders sought to maximize profit through commercializing a few provisioning ES, often relying on regulatory and economic power to influence the landscape. In contrast, a change to the “Biosphere reserve” scenario increased the proportion of non-governmental organizations engaging with the landscape, and drew on stakeholders from multiple governance scales that were interested in diverse provisioning, cultural, regulating, and supporting ES. Our findings suggest that future landscapes imply divergent changes in stakeholder constellations and interests, both from proximate and remote locations. Landscape management should consider such possible changes in multi-level stakeholder constellations, interests, and influence. Our methodological approach enriches existing scenario narratives with empirically grounded social and governance layers that can improve proactive land management decisions.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere0000012
JournalPLOS Sustanaibility and Transformation
Issue number5
Number of pages24
Publication statusPublished - 09.05.2022