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Regime shifts in a social-ecological system

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  • Steven J. Lade
  • Alessandro Tavoni
  • Simon A. Levin
  • Maja Schlüter

Abstract

Ecological regime shifts are rarely purely ecological. Not only is the regime shift frequently triggered by human activity, but the responses of relevant actors to ecological dynamics are often crucial to the development and even existence of the regime shift. Here,we show that the dynamics of human behaviour in response to ecological changes can be crucial in determining the overall dynamics of the system. We find a social-ecological regime shift in a model of harvesters of a common-pool resource who avoid over-exploitation of the resource by social ostracism of non-complying harvesters. The regime shift, which can be triggered by several different drivers individually or also in combination, consists of a breakdown of the social norm, sudden collapse of co-operation and an over-exploitation of the resource. We use the approach of generalised modelling to study the robustness of the regime shift to uncertainty over the specific forms of model components such as the ostracism norm and the resource dynamics. Importantly, the regime shift in our model does not occur if the dynamics of harvester behaviour are not included in the model. Finally, we sketch some possible early warning signals for the social-ecological regime shifts we observe in the models.

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Paper provided by Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment in its series Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment Working Papers with number 105.

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Date of creation: Feb 2013
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Handle: RePEc:lsg:lsgwps:wp105

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  1. Nori Tarui & Charles Mason & Stephen Polasky & Greg Ellis, 2007. "Cooperation in the Commons with Unobservable Actions," Working Papers 200711, University of Hawaii at Manoa, Department of Economics.
  2. Polasky, Stephen & de Zeeuw, Aart & Wagener, Florian, 2011. "Optimal management with potential regime shifts," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 62(2), pages 229-240, September.
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Cited by:
  1. Maja Schlüter & Alessandro Tavoni & Simon Levin, 2014. "Robustness of norm-driven cooperation in the commons to environmental variability," Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment Working Papers 146, Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment.

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