Land-use choices follow profitability at the expense of ecological functions in Indonesian smallholder landscapes

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle


Smallholder-dominated agricultural mosaic landscapes are highlighted as model production systems that deliver both economic and ecological goods in tropical agricultural landscapes, but trade-offs underlying current land-use dynamics are poorly known. Here, using the most comprehensive quantification of land-use change and associated bundles of ecosystem functions, services and economic benefits to date, we show that Indonesian smallholders predominantly choose farm portfolios with high economic productivity but low ecological value. The more profitable oil palm and rubber monocultures replace forests and agroforests critical for maintaining above- and below-ground ecological functions and the diversity of most taxa. Between the monocultures, the higher economic performance of oil palm over rubber comes with the reliance on fertilizer inputs and with increased nutrient leaching losses. Strategies to achieve an ecological-economic balance and a sustainable management of tropical smallholder landscapes must be prioritized to avoid further environmental degradation.


  • Vijesh V. Krishna
  • Marife D. Corre
  • Kevin Darras
  • Lisa H. Denmead
  • Ana Meijide
  • Stefan Moser
  • Oliver Musshoff
  • Stefanie Steinebach
  • Edzo Veldkamp
  • Kara Allen
  • Andrew D. Barnes
  • Natalie Breidenbach
  • Ulrich Brose
  • Damayanti Buchori
  • Rolf Daniel
  • Reiner Finkeldey
  • Idham Harahap
  • Dietrich Hertel
  • A. Mareike Holtkamp
  • Elvira Hörandl
  • Bambang Irawan
  • I. Nengah Surati Jaya
  • Malte Jochum
  • Bernhard Klarner
  • Alexander Knohl
  • Martyna M. Kotowska
  • Valentyna Krashevska
  • Holger Kreft
  • Syahrul Kurniawan
  • Christoph Leuschner
  • Mark Maraun
  • Dian Nuraini Melati
  • Nicole Opfermann
  • César Pérez-Cruzado
  • Walesa Edho Prabowo
  • Katja Rembold
  • Akhmad Rizali
  • Ratna Rubiana
  • Dominik Schneider
  • Sri Sudarmiyati Tjitrosoedirdjo
  • Aiyen Tjoa
  • Teja Tscharntke
  • Stefan Scheu
External organisations
  • University of Göttingen
  • Waiariki Bay of Plenty Polytechnic
  • Leipzig University
  • Friedrich Schiller University Jena
  • Bogor Agricultural University
  • Jambi University
  • University of Bern
  • Tadulako University
  • German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv)
  • University of Brawijaya
  • Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Tropical Biology
Research areas and keywords

Subject classification (UKÄ) – MANDATORY

  • Environmental Sciences related to Agriculture and Land-use
Original languageEnglish
Article number13137
JournalNature Communications
Publication statusPublished - 2016 Oct 11
Publication categoryResearch