Towards a spatial understanding of trade-offs in sustainable development: A meso-scale analysis of the nexus between land use, poverty, and environment in the Lao PDR

Messerli, Peter; Bader, Christoph; Hett, Cornelia; Epprecht, Michael; Heinimann, Andreas (2015). Towards a spatial understanding of trade-offs in sustainable development: A meso-scale analysis of the nexus between land use, poverty, and environment in the Lao PDR. PLoS ONE, 10(7), e0133418. Public Library of Science 10.1371/journal.pone.0133418

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In land systems, equitably managing trade-offs between planetary boundaries and human development needs represents a grand challenge in sustainability oriented initiatives. Informing such initiatives requires knowledge about the nexus between land use, poverty, and environment. This paper presents results from Lao PDR, where we combined nationwide spatial data on land use types and the environmental state of landscapes with village-level poverty indicators. Our analysis reveals two general but contrasting trends. First, landscapes with paddy or permanent agriculture allow a greater number of people to live in less poverty but come at the price of a decrease in natural vegetation cover. Second, people practising extensive swidden agriculture and living in intact environments are often better off than people in degraded paddy or permanent agriculture. As poverty rates within different landscape types vary more than between landscape types, we cannot stipulate a land use–poverty–environment nexus. However, the distinct spatial patterns or configurations of these rates point to other important factors at play. Drawing on ethnicity as a proximate factor for endogenous development potentials and accessibility as a proximate factor for external influences, we further explore these linkages. Ethnicity is strongly related to poverty in all land use types almost independently of accessibility, implying that social distance outweighs geographic or physical distance. In turn, accessibility, almost a precondition for poverty alleviation, is mainly beneficial to ethnic majority groups and people living in paddy or permanent agriculture. These groups are able to translate improved accessibility into poverty alleviation. Our results show that the concurrence of external influences with local—highly contextual—development potentials is key to shaping outcomes of the land use–poverty–environment nexus. By addressing such leverage points, these findings help guide more effective development interventions. At the same time, they point to the need in land change science to better integrate the understanding of place-based land indicators with process-based drivers of land use change.

Item Type:

Journal Article (Original Article)

Division/Institute:

08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Integrative Geography > Unit Geography of Sustainable Development
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography > Integrative Geography > Unit Sustainable Land Management
08 Faculty of Science > Institute of Geography
10 Strategic Research Centers > Centre for Development and Environment (CDE)

UniBE Contributor:

Messerli, Peter; Bader, Christoph; Hett, Cornelia; Epprecht, Michael and Heinimann, Andreas

Subjects:

900 History > 910 Geography & travel
300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 330 Economics

ISSN:

1932-6203

Publisher:

Public Library of Science

Projects:

[432] Lao DECIDE info Project

Language:

English

Submitter:

Stephan Schmidt

Date Deposited:

20 Aug 2015 11:31

Last Modified:

26 Jun 2016 02:06

Publisher DOI:

10.1371/journal.pone.0133418

BORIS DOI:

10.7892/boris.70909

URI:

https://boris.unibe.ch/id/eprint/70909

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