Protected Areas (PA) are the main strategy for nature conservation. However, PA are not always efficient for ecological conservation and social wellbeing. A possible alternative for conservation in human-dominated landscapes are Multifunctional Landscapes (ML), which allow the coexistence of multiple objectives, such as nature conservation and resource use. Using the activity system framework, we analyzed whether the ML concept was an operative alternative to PA within an area of interest for conservation in Veracruz, Mexico. Activity systems refer to the set of productive strategies that result from the mobilization of resources and which, within particular environmental governance contexts, shape the landscape. To understand the challenges and opportunities of our case study, we: (1) delimited the landscape according to local conservation interests; and (2) analyzed the role of stakeholders in shaping this landscape. The delimited landscape included areas considered wildlife reservoirs and water provisioning zones. Our results suggested that the existence of local conservation areas (private and communal), combined with shaded-coffee agroforestry practices, made this region an example of ML. Although local conservation initiatives are perceived as more legitimate than top-down approaches, agreements amongst stakeholders are essential to strengthen environmental governance. In specific socio-ecological contexts, ML can be effective strategies for conservation through agroecosystems that maintain a high-quality landscape matrix, allowing nature preservation and delivering economic benefits.
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