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Contagious Cooperation, Temptation, and Ecosystem Collapse

  • Andries Richter

    (Centre for Ecological and Evolutionary Synthesis (CEES), University of Oslo, Norway, and Department of Mathematical Statistical Methods, Wageningen University, the Netherlands)

  • Daan van Soest

    (Department of Spatial Economics and IVM, VU University Amsterdam, Department of Economics, Tilburg University, the Netherlands)

  • Johan Grasman

    (Department of Mathematical and Statistical Methods, Wageningen University, the Netherlands)

Real world observations suggest that social norms of cooperation can be effective in overcoming social dilemmas such as the joint management of a common pool resource – but also that they can be subject to slow erosion and sudden collapse. We show that these patterns of erosion and collapse emerge endogenously in a model of a closed community harvesting a renewable natural resource in which individual agents face the temptation to overexploit the resource, while a cooperative harvesting norm spreads through the community via interpersonal relations. We analyze under what circumstances small changes in key parameters (including the size of the community, and the rate of technological progress) trigger catastrophic transitions from relatively high levels of cooperation to widespread norm violation – causing the social-ecological system to collapse.

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Paper provided by Fondazione Eni Enrico Mattei in its series Working Papers with number 2013.36.

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Date of creation: Apr 2013
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Handle: RePEc:fem:femwpa:2013.36
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