A conceptual framework for understanding ecosystem trade-offs and synergies, in communal rangeland systems.

James Bennett, Tawanda Marandure, Heidi-Jayne Hawkins, Cletos Mapiye, Anthony Palmer, Stefanie Lemke, Lianhai Wu, Mostafa Moradzadeh

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)
37 Downloads (Pure)


Communal rangelands are a global resource of significant benefit to society through the provision of critical ecosystem goods and services such as carbon sequestration, water and livestock forage. The relative importance of the ecosystem goods and services provided by communal rangelands is driven by the social and environmental priorities of a range of different stakeholders at the local, regional and national level. Understanding the potential ecosystem service trade-offs (and synergies) is vital for making informed and inclusive decisions as part of the process of stakeholder engagement, both in goal setting as well as evaluating the appropriateness of outcomes in rangelands. However, application of trade-offs approaches to communal rangelands, has frequently been limited by a lack of adequate stakeholder engagement to help define important factors such as the diverse objectives of end users and the broader institutional and policy environments that frame them. To help address this, we propose a framework that conceptualises the links between different actors and trade-offs at three key levels, using communal rangelands in South Africa as a case study. Firstly, we explore environment trade-offs between key ecosystem services, largely determined through public sector engagement in the formulation of environmental policy. Secondly, we examine the potential for environmental policies to create community-environment trade-offs between the needs of local communities and those of society more broadly. Thirdly, we consider community trade-offs reflecting the many different social and economic priorities of people living in communal systems. We suggest that the framework will find greatest application in the initial process of determining potential ecosystem service trade-offs and associated land use scenarios with key stakeholders, and then subsequently in connecting the trade-offs back to these stakeholders, following analysis, as part of a ‘discussion support’ process. We also discuss the broader applicability of this approach to rangelands systems outside of South Africa.
Original languageEnglish
Article number101533
Pages (from-to)(In-Press)
Number of pages10
JournalEcosystem Services
Early online date23 Apr 2023
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Published by Elsevier B.V. This is an open access article under the CC BY license (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).


This work was supported by a collaborative BBSRC-GCRF funded project (Grant number: BB/S014683/1).


  • Trade-offs
  • Ecosystem services
  • Communal rangelands
  • Invasive Alien Plants
  • South Africa


Dive into the research topics of 'A conceptual framework for understanding ecosystem trade-offs and synergies, in communal rangeland systems.'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this