Departamento de Conservación de la Biodiversidad, El Colegio de la Frontera Sur, Carretera Panamericana y Periférico Sur s/n, 29290 San Cristóbal de Las Casas, Chiapas, Mexico. Electronic address: [Email]
There is increasing recognition that ecosystems and their services need to be managed at landscape scale and greater. The development of landscape-scale conservation strategies need to incorporate information from multiple sources. In this study, we combine various research tools to link landscape patterns with production units and systems in the Usumacinta River Basin, and inform the discussion of key questions around decision-making related to conservation action and policy in Southern Mexico. A typology based on policy-relevant farmer characteristics (land tenure, farm size, source of income, farming system) differentiated between farmers (traditional vs. cattle ranching) with different motivations that determine how management affects landscape configuration. Five main types of traditional farming systems were identified that combine different forms of land use and vary in their degree of land intensification. Major fragmentation and decrease in connectivity coincided spatially with floodplains dominated by large-scale commercial farms that specialize in livestock production. Traditional practices within large units with low-sloped high quality land were also seen to be intensive; however the presence of trees was notable throughout these units. Policies that promote livestock farming are among the principle causes motivating deforestation. Land intensification by traditional farmers decreased as the landscape became increasingly rugged. Traditional farmers are the focus of initiatives developed by the Biological Corridor project which seeks to increase forest cover and landscape connectivity. These initiatives have shown high levels of rural participation (10,010 farmers benefited from 27,778 projects involving 95,374 ha of land) and acceptance (producers carried out more than one project and several types of projects during the first eight years of work). Strong action is still required to take on the segment of large-scale ranchers. Changes in the structure of land tenure over the past decade are highlighted that could have a profound impact on conservation policies and programs.