30 Jan UNDERSTANDING LOCAL PERCEPTIONS OF THE IMPACTS OF LARGE-SCALE OIL PALM PLANTATIONS ON ECOSYSTEM SERVICES IN THE BRAZILIAN AMAZON
Despite the increasing research on the impacts of oil palm, few studies have examined local perceptions of environmental changes of large-scale plantations in Latin America. This paper addresses this research gap through focusing on understanding these perceptions in communities bordering two plantations with different time of exposure to land use transformation in the Amazonian state of Pará, Brazil. Drawing on the concept of ecosystem services, results from our survey and qualitative interviews indicate that water availa bility, air and water quality were perceived to be the most heavily impacted ecosystem services by this crop. While respondents were aware of the negative impacts on ecosystem services of future palm plantations in the two sites, the majority tend to support a future expansion of this crop. Demographic characteristics as well as time of exposure to the crop did not correlate with peoples’ perceptions as people in both sites tended to privilege job opportunities and economic benefits. We found that people’s perceptions of land use change trade-offs were also linked to wider economic and social sustainability issues such as land conflicts, agribusiness management practices and distinct oil palm trajectories. We suggest that information on stakeholders’ interactions, social differentiation and social and economic sustainability is needed for policy design and planning to complement an ecosystem services analysis of the trade-offs of oil palm expansion.