Marull J.; Delgadillo O.; Cattaneo C. et al. 2017. “Socioecological transition in the Cauca river valley, Colombia (1943–2010): towards an energy–landscape integrated analysis”. Regional Environmental Change.


Agroecosystems are facing a global challenge amidst a socioecological transition that places them in a dilemma between increasing land-use intensity to meet the growing demand of food, feed, fibres and fuels, while avoiding the loss of biodiversity and ecosystem services. We applied an intermediate disturbance-complexity approach to the land-use changes of a Latin American biocultural landscape (Cauca river valley, Colombia, 1943–2010), which accounts for the joint behaviour of human appropriation of photosynthetic capacity used as a measure of disturbance, and a selection of land metrics that account for landscape ecological functionality. We also delved deeper into local land-use changes in order to identify the main socioeconomic drivers and ruling agencies at stake. The results show that traditional organic mixed-farming tended to disappear as a result of sugarcane intensification. The analysis confirms the intermediate disturbance-complexity hypothesis by showing a nonlinear relationship, where the highest level of landscape complexity (heterogeneity–connectivity) is attained when disturbance peaks at 50–60%. The study proves the usefulness of transferring the concept of intermediate disturbance to biocultural landscapes and suggests that conservation of heterogeneous and well-connected mixed-farming, with a positive interplay between intermediate level of disturbances and land-use complexity endowed with a rich intercultural heritage, will preserve a wildlife-friendly agro-ecological matrix likely to house high biodiversity and ecosystem services.