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How Does Climate Change Influence the Economic Value of Ecosystem Services in Savanna Rangelands?

Scheiter, Simon, Schulte, Judith, Pfeiffer, Mirjam, Martens, Carola, Erasmus, Barend F.N., Twine, Wayne C.
Ecological economics 2019 v.157 pp. 342-356
climate, climate change, ecological value, econometric models, economic valuation, ecosystem services, ecosystems, fuelwood, governance, harvesting, land use, livestock, rangelands, savannas, social environment, socioeconomics, stakeholders, sustainable land management
Savanna rangelands provide essential ecosystem services to people. Intense land-use and climate change may degrade ecosystems and influence the provision of ecosystem services. Complex dynamic vegetation models can simulate future vegetation and how vegetation may interact with land-use. Yet, identification of best-practice management directives in the face of climate change is challenging and requires consideration of socio-economic aspects. Here, we developed an economic model to describe the value of key ecosystem services, namely fuelwood harvesting and livestock, and coupled it with aDGVM, a vegetation model for tropical ecosystems. We used simulation optimization to identify land-use strategies that maximize economic value to stakeholders in the planning horizon until 2050, and compared it to realistic land-use intensities. We found that realistic intensities exceed optimal intensities, indicating the tragedy of the commons and external stress factors, prevalent in many rural savanna rangelands. We show that a reduction in fuelwood harvesting until 2050 allows vegetation to recover but that recovery is slow. We conclude that strong governance is important in rural savanna rangelands to ensure sustainable use of resources under future climate conditions. The coupled ecological-economic model can serve as tool to develop sustainable land-use strategies in complex socio-ecological systems globally.