Spatial characterization of social-ecological systems units for management in Tropical Dry Forests

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Context: Understanding the complex interdependencies between nature and people is a major challenge for the sustainable management of social-ecological systems. Spatially explicit identification of these interdependencies is particularly relevant for managing biodiversity hotspots, such as Tropical Dry Forests (TDF). Objectives: We provided a methodology to spatially identify the components of social-ecological systems that have been shaped by both environmental conditions and management practices at three relevant decision-making scales: plots owned by individuals, plot owners, and governance units. To do so, we identified and characterized: (1) ecological clusters (EC), (2) social-management clusters (SC), and (3) social-ecological systems units (SESU) in a TDF in western Mexico. Methods: We used multivariate analysis to identify and characterize the ECs, SCs, and SESU at the respective decision-making scales. Results: We found four EC, SC, and SESU clusters. Differences between ECs were based on their elevation and land cover type. The SC differed according to the management intensity of cattle and forests. Differences between SESU were based on land management regime (individual vs collective), plot sizes, and time under private schemes. Conclusions: Our findings suggested that decision-makers (ejidatarios) are bounded by the topographical characteristics and the public policies that determine communal (or private) governance, also by the number of resources available to them. The methodology can be applied to other contexts and nested decision-making scales. The spatial identification of these interdependencies is critical for landscape planning since it can contribute to reconciling productive activities and biodiversity conservation.

Original languageEnglish
JournalLandscape Ecology
Issue number12
Pages (from-to)4303-4323
Number of pages21
Publication statusPublished - 12.2023

Bibliographical note

Part of 1 collection: Strengthening bidirectional linkages between social and ecological systems in landscape ecology

Funding Information:
The first author acknowledges the PhD scholarship received from Consejo Nacional de Ciencia y Tecnología (CONACYT) and the Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD). She also thanks Alejandra Tauro, Lizbeth Márquez,Mauricio Sánchez,Lidia García Rodríguez and Jasmin Pearson for insightful discussions, exchanges and comments for this paper. We thank the journal´s editor Anita Morzillo for improving this manuscript. We thank Ana Lidia Sandoval-Pérez for technical assistance performing soil sampling and analyses. We thank Angélica U. Salmerón for the design of the icons. We thank the ejidatarios from the Chamela-Cuixmala region that have participated widely in the research made in this area.

Open Access funding enabled and organized by Projekt DEAL. This work was supported by the Conacyt-DAAD PhD scholarship (CVU 545221) to the first author Patricia Santillán-Carvantes. Author Patricia Balvanera has received research support from UNAM-PAPIIT (Grant IN-211417) and SEP-CONACYT (Grants 2009-129740 and 2015- 255544). Francisco Mora has received support from Rufford Foundation (Grant 19426-2). Nathalia Pérez-Cárdenas has received a MSc scholarship from CONACYT (CVU 864299).

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s).