Do provisioning ecosystem services change along gradients of increasing agricultural production?

Related GLP Member: Ronju Ahammad, Sarah Gergel



Increasing agricultural production shapes the flow of ecosystem services (ES), including provisioning services that support the livelihoods and nutrition of people in tropical developing countries. Although our broad understanding of the social-ecological consequences of agricultural intensification is growing, how it impacts provisioning ES is still unknown.


We examined the household use of provisioning ES across a gradient of increasing agricultural production in seven tropical countries (Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Nicaragua and Zambia). We answered two overarching questions: (1) does the use of provisioning ES differ along gradients of agriculture production ranging from zones of subsistence to moderate and to high agriculture production? and (2) are there synergies and/or trade-offs within and among groups of ES within these zones?


Using structured surveys, we asked 1900 households about their assets, livestock, crops, and collection of forest products. These questions allowed us to assess the number of provisioning ES households used, and whether the ES used are functionally substitutable (i.e., used similarly for nutrition, material, and energy). Finally, we explored synergies and trade-offs among household use of provisioning ES.


As agricultural production increased, provisioning ES declined both in total number and in different functional groups used. We found more severe decreases in ES for relatively poorer households. Within the functional groups of ES, synergistic relationships were more often found than trade-offs in all zones, including significant synergies among livestock products (dairy, eggs, meat) and fruits.


Considering landscape context provides opportunities to enhance synergies among provisioning services for households, supporting resilient food systems and human well-being.