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Collective action and the risk of ecosystem regime shifts: insights from a laboratory experiment
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre. The Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Sweden.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre. The Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Sweden.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Stockholm Resilience Centre. The Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Sweden.
2015 (English)In: Ecology & society, ISSN 1708-3087, E-ISSN 1708-3087, Vol. 20, no 1, 48Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Ecosystems can undergo regime shifts that potentially lead to a substantial decrease in the availability of provisioning ecosystem services. Recent research suggests that the frequency and intensity of regime shifts increase with growing anthropogenic pressure, so understanding the underlying social-ecological dynamics is crucial, particularly in contexts where livelihoods depend heavily on local ecosystem services. In such settings, ecosystem services are often derived from common-pool resources. The limited capacity to predict regime shifts is a major challenge for common-pool resource management, as well as for systematic empirical analysis of individual and group behavior, because of the need for extensive preshift and postshift data. Unsurprisingly, current knowledge is mostly based on theoretical models. We examine behavioral group responses to a latent endogenously driven regime shift in a laboratory experiment. If the group exploited the common-pool resource beyond a certain threshold level, its renewal rate dropped drastically. To determine how the risk of such a latent shift affects resource management and collective action, we compared four experimental treatments in which groups were faced with a latent shift with different probability levels (0.1, 0.5, 0.9, 1.0). Our results suggest that different probability levels do not make people more or less likely to exploit the resource beyond its critical potential threshold. However, when the likelihood of the latent shift is certain or high, people appear more prone to agree initially on a common exploitation strategy, which in turn is a predictor for averting the latent shift. Moreover, risk appears to have a positive effect on collective action, but the magnitude of this effect is influenced by how risk and probabilities are communicated and perceived.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2015. Vol. 20, no 1, 48
Keyword [en]
common-pool resources, cooperation, ecological dynamics, laboratory experiments, regime shifts, risk, social-ecological systems, thresholds, uncertainty
National Category
Environmental Sciences Social Sciences Interdisciplinary Economics
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-117406DOI: 10.5751/ES-07318-200148ISI: 000353293900057OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-117406DiVA: diva2:815127
Note

AuthorCount:3;

Available from: 2015-05-29 Created: 2015-05-19 Last updated: 2017-12-04Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Human Behaviour in Social-Ecological Systems: Insights from economic experiments and agent-based modelling
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Human Behaviour in Social-Ecological Systems: Insights from economic experiments and agent-based modelling
2017 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Progress towards sustainability requires changes in our individual and collective behaviour. Yet, our fundamental understanding of behaviour in relation to environmental change remains severely limited. In particular, little attention has been given to how individual and collective behaviours respond to, and are shaped by, non-linear environmental change (such as ‘regime shifts’) and its inherent uncertainties. The thesis makes two main contributions to the literature: 1) it provides one of the first accounts of human behaviour and collective action in relation to ecological regime shifts and associated uncertainties; and 2) extends the incipient behavioural common-pool resource literature that acknowledges social-ecological dynamics and ecological complexity. The overarching aim of this thesis is to further advance an empirically grounded understanding of human behaviour in social-ecological systems. In particular, the thesis attempts to unravel critical social-ecological factors and mechanisms for the sustainability of common-pool resources. This is especially relevant for contexts in which livelihoods can be more directly threatened by regime shifts. The following methods are applied: behavioural economic experiments in the lab (with students; Papers I and II) and in the field (with small-scale fishers from four different communities in the Colombian Caribbean; Paper III), and agent-based modelling empirically informed by a subset of the lab experiments (Paper IV). Paper I tests the effect of an endogenously driven regime shift on the emergence of cooperation and sustainable resource use. Paper II tests the effect of different risk levels of such a regime shift. The regime shift in both papers has negative consequences for the productivity of the shared resource. Paper III assesses the effect of different degrees of uncertainty about a climate-induced threshold in stock dynamics on the exploitation patterns; as well as the role of social and ecological local context. Paper IV explores critical individual-level factors and processes affecting the simultaneous emergence of collective action and sustainable resource use. Results cumulatively suggest that existing scientific knowledge indicating the potential for ecological regime shifts should be communicated to affected local communities, including the remaining uncertainties, as this information can encourage collective action for sustainable resource use. Results also highlight the critical role of ecological knowledge, knowledge-sharing, perceived ecological uncertainties, and the role local contexts play for sustainable outcomes. This thesis enriches the literature on social-ecological systems by demonstrating how a behavioural experimental approach can contribute new insights relevant for sustainability. Overall, these insights indicate that, given the opportunity and the willingness of people to come together, share knowledge, exchange ideas, and build trust, potential ecological crises can encourage collective action, and uncertainties can be turned into opportunities for dealing with change in constructive ways. This provides a hopeful outlook in the face of escalating environmental change and inherent uncertainties.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, 2017. 81 p.
Keyword
Human behaviour, Common-pool resources, Ecological complexity, Collective action, Sustainable resource use, Regime shifts, Thresholds, Uncertainty, Communication, Knowledge-sharing, Economic experiments, Laboratory and field experiments, Agent-based modelling, Complex adaptive systems, Social-ecological systems
National Category
Environmental Sciences Social Sciences Interdisciplinary
Research subject
Sustainability Science
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-141696 (URN)978-91-7649-760-9 (ISBN)978-91-7649-761-6 (ISBN)
Public defence
2017-05-17, Vivi Täckholmsalen (Q-salen), NPQ-huset, Svante Arrhenius väg 20, Stockholm, 10:15 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 3: Manuscript.

Available from: 2017-04-24 Created: 2017-04-18 Last updated: 2017-05-17Bibliographically approved

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