Extreme events and coupled socio-ecological systems

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Easton R White , Sophie Wulfing


Rare, but potentially impactful, extreme events in socio-ecological systems (SES) can trigger significant consequences. The scarcity of theoretical frameworks for such events in SES is due to data limitations and difficulty in building coupled SES models. We explore the effect of extreme events on coupled socio-ecological systems using two stylized case studies: harvesting of old-growth forests and coral reef fisheries. We found that extreme events alter the long-term and transient dynamics of the systems. We identify counter-intuitive situations where the degradation of forests or coral habitat can prevent extinction through social dynamics feedback. Management outcomes show maximum variability at intermediate disturbance frequencies, complicating predictions of ecological recovery. We also found that initial conditions significantly influence system responses to shocks. Lastly, we found that shocks to the ecological subsystem had far greater consequences than those that occurred in on the social side. Our work lays a foundation for future studies on extreme events in socio-ecological dynamics, highlighting the complexities of predicting coupled system responses to shocks.




Agricultural and Resource Economics, Behavioral Economics, Demography, Population, and Ecology, Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Human Ecology, Life Sciences, Marine Biology, Other Social and Behavioral Sciences, Social and Behavioral Sciences


Human–environment model, coupled socio-ecological, systems science, Fisheries, Forestry, replicator dynamics, extreme event, shock, disturbance


Published: 2023-11-20 23:24

Last Updated: 2023-11-21 04:24


CC BY Attribution 4.0 International

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