Local Perspectives on Ecosystem Service Trade-Offs in a Forest Frontier Landscape in Myanmar

TitleLocal Perspectives on Ecosystem Service Trade-Offs in a Forest Frontier Landscape in Myanmar
Annotated RecordAnnotated
Year of Publication2019
AuthorsFeurer M, Heinimann A, Schneider F, Jurt C, Myint_Win _, Zaehringer JGwendolin
Secondary TitleLand
Key themesEnvironment, FDI

Extensive land use changes in forest frontier landscapes are leading to trade-offs in the supply of ecosystem services (ES) with, in many cases, as yet unknown effects on human well-being. In the Tanintharyi Region of Myanmar, a forest frontier landscape facing oil palm and rubber expansion, little is known about local perspectives on ES and the direct impact of trade-offs from land use change. This study assessed the trade-offs experienced with respect to 10 locally important ES from land user perspectives using social valuation techniques. The results show that while intact forests provide the most highly valued ES bundle, the conversion to rubber plantations entails fewer negative trade-offs than that to oil palm. Rubber plantations offer income, fuelwood, a good microclimate, and even new cultural identities. By contrast, oil palm concessions have caused environmental pollution, and, most decisively, have restricted local people’s access to the respective lands. The ES water flow regulation is seen as the most critical if more forest is converted; other ES, such as non-timber forest products, can be more easily substituted. We conclude that, from local perspectives, the impact of ES trade-offs highly depends on access to land and opportunities to adapt to change.


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Document Type

Journal Article


Overall relevance: 

This paper examines and assesses the spread of oil palm and rubber plantations in the Tanintharyi Region of Myanmar, focusing on how significant land use changes in forest frontier landscapes are resulting in ecosystem services (ES) supply trade-offs. While undisturbed forests provide the highest value ES bundle, rubber plantations have fewer negative trade-offs than oil palm plantations. Rubber plantations provide a source of revenue, fuelwood, a decent microclimate, and even new cultural identities. Oil palm plantations on the other hand, have polluted the environment and, most importantly, have restricted local people’s access to their lands. The impacts of ES trade-offs for locals are heavily dependent on land access and their ability to adapt to change.

Key Themes: 
  • Land and the environment: pollution, deforestation, climate change, conservation zoning - Trade-offs are experienced most negatively in local communities where forests are converted into oil palm plantations. These are associated with disruptions to water flows and other regulatory functions by reportedly polluting nearby rivers with agricultural chemicals.
  • FDI and land access: economic land concessions, contract farming, short term and long term renting - Since 2010, forests in border areas such as Tanintharyi have increasingly become a hotspot for large-scale land acquisitions for oil palm and rubber plantations. A government-supported rubber boom began in 2007 and has been motivating private investors and smallholder farmers to set up rubber plantations on former forest and mixed plantation land.
Research basis: 

The analysis in this paper is derived from transect walks and texts from focus groups and interviews. It applied a thematic coding system based on land uses and ecosystem services. Following an explorative approach, further codes on drivers of change were applied after reading through the transcripts. A structured content analysis followed. The qualitative content analysis built the foundation for the ES scoring process. Additionally, the researchers carried out a coding query using all transcripts to find links between ES and drivers of change, interpreting more than two overlaps as a strong link. (Provided by Sivilay Duangdala)