Collapse and recovery in a remote small island-A tale of adaptive cycles or downward spirals?

M Bunce, Laurence Mee, L D Rodwell, R Gibb

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

48 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Few studies consider how social-ecological systems recover from disturbance. We consider the small semi-autonomous island of Rodrigues (Indian Ocean). Based on semi-structured interviews (n = 70), a fisher survey (n = 73), weather data and official records we build a timeline of key events. We tabulate local perceptions (5+ mentions) of changes (social, economic and natural capital) and look for signs of adaptive cycles in the island's social-ecological past. Rising human pressure and extreme weather event impacts are reported since first settlement. We propose a recent "collapse" phase catalysed in the 1970s by severe drought, based on respondents' perceptions of still-ongoing changes in farming and fishing, water, external dependence, migration and inter-island political change. Connectivity (flows of people, goods, information, money, power) appear to have strengthed local island recovery, but degradation continued, not least due to water scarcity and a lack of shared political vision as Rodrigues became more tied into the wider world. Overall, our findings suggest social-ecological systems may get stuck in a post-collapse recovery without any new structure emerging, presuming adaptive cycles can even be detected. Data gaps and global change redefining spatial and temporal scales could mean the adaptive cycle's usefulness is limited in development policy-making contexts. (C) 2008 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)213-239
Number of pages27
JournalGLOBAL ENVIRON CHANG
Volume19
Issue number2)(Sp.Iss
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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Keywords

  • Environmental Sciences
  • MANGROVE SEDIMENTS
  • PERSONAL RISK
  • ENVIRONMENTAL HAZARDS
  • VULNERABILITY
  • SEWAGE-TREATMENT
  • Environmental Studies
  • DEVELOPING-COUNTRIES
  • AIR-POLLUTION
  • EAST-AFRICAN PASTORALISTS
  • UNREALISTIC OPTIMISM
  • Geography
  • RISK PERCEPTION

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