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Keywords:

  • Adaptive co-management;
  • agricultural policy;
  • agri-environment;
  • ecosystems services and resilience;
  • environmental policy;
  • governance;
  • property;
  • rural land

Abstract

Liberalisation of agricultural policies reduces the influence of policy on land-use decisions, but environmental policy objectives remain. Governance provides an approach that recognises the role of institutions and collective action. The formulation of environmental policy objectives in terms of the provision of public goods raises questions as to the role of economic valuation and as to whether the definition of ‘goods’ may misdirect policy attention. An alternative approach relates to ecosystem services and sees management issues in terms of ecosystem resilience and the adaptive governance of socio-ecological systems. Governance involves a mix of regulation, markets, government incentives and collective action. Regulation sets the domain within which markets operate and social judgements as to property rights are required as a basis for exchanges. Depending on commodity prices, agri-environment schemes may be required either to reduce agricultural production intensity or to keep land under production. The diffuse nature of the environmental benefits and costs of land uses, the complexity of ecosystems and the need to co-ordinate land management decisions indicate a role for local adaptive co-management of land resources. Governments play a major role in supporting the institutional framework within which this can take place.