How effective are on-farm conservation land management strategies for preserving ecosystem services in developing countries?
While ecosystem service valuation is commonly justified as a tool that can enhance decision making at landscape level through monitoring, planning or prioritization, there is a literature blind spot in the empirical quantification of ecosystem services, and moreover, how quantification has actually informed land management. Major financial investments have been made to make end-user orientated decision-making support tools, including online platforms and manuals for agricultural extension workers. Nevertheless, the current rate of environmental degradation, compounded by the impact of climate change, suggests that existing approaches offer limited assistance to decision making at the landscape level. Farmers in the developing world are facing unprecedented rapid change and its associated environmental/ socioeconomic stresses and in turn, adapt farming practices and livelihoods autonomously. There is growing evidence that ecosystem service quantification is not being used. Against this background, we propose a systematic review of the scientific literature that reports methodologies for assessing ecosystem services at the field level that meet a set of criteria considered to increase the likelihood of informing decision-making. Criterion might include methods that are scientifically robust, allow for real time analysis, and are rapid and affordable. Methodologies more likely to influence decision making are also those that produce results that are user oriented, aligned with timelines for specific decision-making processes and involve the people who the valuation aims to influence, such as land managers, in the collection of data and feedback of results.