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Modelling Loss of Resilience in Agroecosystems: Rangelands in Botswana


  • Charles Perrings
  • David Stern


Economists have recently begun to consider the questions raised by the ecological concept of resilience – a measure of the degree to which a system can be perturbed before it switches from one stability domain to another. At a theoretical level, it has been argued that the loss of resilience in an ecological-economic system involves a change in its long-run productive potential, but no consideration has yet been given to the empirical investigation of this. This paper discusses an econometric approach to the problem, using the example of semi-arid rangelands. The long-run productive potential of the system is regarded as an unobserved state variable, change in which is irreversible or at least only slowly reversible. It is estimated by applying the extended (nonlinear) Kalman filter. The paper illustrates the approach using data from Botswana for the period 1965–1993. The maximum likelihood estimates of the parameters associated with the loss of resilience mechanism are non-zero. They indicate a small loss of resilience event at the end of the long drought in the 1980s. However, these parameters are very imprecisely estimated and are therefore statistically insignificant. We find that the sensitivity of the system to exogenous shocks varies with fluctuations in both economic and non-economic parameters. Contrary to what is usually thought to be the case, the sensitivity of the system to exogenous shocks is only weakly affected by variations in offtake prices, but is very strongly affected by variations in the cost of herd maintenance. This suggests that offtake prices may be a weak tool for controlling the size of cattle stocks and preventing a loss of resilience. On the other hand, taxes on cattle stocks or grazing fees may be very effective. Copyright Kluwer Academic Publishers 2000

Suggested Citation

  • Charles Perrings & David Stern, 2000. "Modelling Loss of Resilience in Agroecosystems: Rangelands in Botswana," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 16(2), pages 185-210, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:kap:enreec:v:16:y:2000:i:2:p:185-210
    DOI: 10.1023/A:1008374222463

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. Derissen, Sandra & Quaas, Martin F. & Baumgärtner, Stefan, 2011. "The relationship between resilience and sustainability of ecological-economic systems," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 70(6), pages 1121-1128, April.
    2. Stefan Baumgärtner & Sebastian Strunz, 2009. "The economic insurance value of ecosystem resilience," Working Paper Series in Economics 132, University of Lüneburg, Institute of Economics.
    3. Tobon Orozco, David & Molina Guerra, Carlos & Vargas Cano, John Harvey, 2016. "Extent of Expected Pigouvian Taxes and Permits for Environmental Services in a General Equilibrium Model with a natural capital constraint," BORRADORES DEPARTAMENTO DE ECONOMÍA 015258, UNIVERSIDAD DE ANTIOQUIA - CIE.
    4. Felix Schläpfer & Michael Tucker & Irmi Seidl, 2002. "Returns from Hay Cultivation in Fertilized Low Diversity and Non-Fertilized High Diversity Grassland," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 21(1), pages 89-100, January.
    5. Domptail, Stéphanie & Nuppenau, Ernst-August, 2010. "The role of uncertainty and expectations in modeling (range)land use strategies: An application of dynamic optimization modeling with recursion," Ecological Economics, Elsevier, vol. 69(12), pages 2475-2485, October.
    6. Lucia Vergano & Paulo A.L.D. Nunes, 2006. "Analysis and Evaluation of Ecosystem Resilience: An Economic Perspective," Working Papers 2006.25, Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei.
    7. Brand, Fridolin, 2005. "Ecological resilience and its relevance within a theory of sustainable development," UFZ Reports 03/2005, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ).
    8. Brian Walker & Leonie Pearson & Michael Harris & Karl-Göran Maler & Chuan-Zhong Li & Reinette Biggs & Tim Baynes, 2010. "Incorporating Resilience in the Assessment of Inclusive Wealth: An Example from South East Australia," Environmental & Resource Economics, Springer;European Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 45(2), pages 183-202, February.


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