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Exploring sustainable land use in forested tropical social-ecological systems: A case-study in the Wet Tropics

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Julen Gonzalez-Redin, Terence Peter Dawson

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)940-952
Number of pages13
Early online date11 Nov 2018
Publication statusPublished - 1 Feb 2019


King's Authors


Tropical countries lie at the nexus of three pressing issues for global sustainability: agricultural production, climate change mitigation and biodiversity conservation. The forces that drive forest protection do not necessarily oppose those that drive forest clearance for development. This decoupling, enhanced by the stronger economic forces compared to conservation, is detrimental for the social-ecological sustainability of forested tropical landscapes. This paper presents an integrated, and spatially-explicit, Agent-Based Model that examines the future impacts of land-use change scenarios on the sustainability of the Wet Tropics region of tropical Queensland, Australia. In particular, the model integrates Bayesian Belief Networks, Geographical Information Systems, empirical data and expert knowledge, under a land-sharing/land-sparing analysis, to study the impact of different landscape configurations on trade-offs and synergies among biodiversity and two ecosystem services (sugarcane production and carbon sequestration). Contrary to most tropical regions, model simulations show that Business As Usual is helping to reconcile these contrasting goals in the forested landscape of the Wet Tropics. The paper analyses which combination of governance and socio-economic factors is causing these positive results. This is an outstanding achievement for a tropical region, considering that most tropical areas are characterized for having stronger economic-land clearing forces compared to conservation forces, which reduce important ecosystem services for human wellbeing and the health of ecosystems.

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