Land use intensification: The promise of sustainability and the reality of trade-offs

Brendan Coolsaet, Esteve Corbera, Neil Dawson, Janet Fisher, Phil Franks, Ole Mertz, Unai Pascual, Laura Vang Rasmussen, Casey Ryan, Adrian Martin

Research output: Chapter in BookChapterResearchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


© 2018 selection and editorial matter, Kate Schreckenberg, Georgina Mace and Mahesh Poudyal; individual chapters, the contributors. Land use intensification is widely considered to be an essential strategy for achieving global goals to eliminate poverty and to avoid damaging losses of ecosystem services. This chapter investigates whether current land use intensification activities are achieving these twin goals. To do so, it reviews a body of academic literature that reports on case studies in which both social and ecological outcomes of intensification are reported. There are two main findings. First, there are relatively few cases in which land use intensification is clearly succeeding in these twinned objectives. There are many more cases in which, for example, short-term income or productivity gains from land use intensification are resulting in long-term diminution of biodiversity and ecosystem services. Studies with longer-term perspectives are already seeing how such trade-offs are leading to negative feedbacks for human wellbeing, especially for marginalised social groups. Secondly, we learn most from those studies that a) go beyond measuring production and income to measure multiple dimensions of wellbeing and ecosystem services, b) monitor dynamics of outcomes across longer time periods and across landscapes and c) disaggregate outcome measures to identify outcomes for different social groups.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEcosystem Services and Poverty Alleviation: Trade-Offs and Governance
Number of pages16
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2018


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