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Earth System Dynamics An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union

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Earth Syst. Dynam., 8, 255-264, 2017
https://doi.org/10.5194/esd-8-255-2017
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
11 Apr 2017
Sustainable use of renewable resources in a stylized social–ecological network model under heterogeneous resource distribution
Wolfram Barfuss1,3, Jonathan F. Donges1,4, Marc Wiedermann2,3, and Wolfgang Lucht1,5,6 1Earth System Analysis, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Telegrafenberg A31, 14473 Potsdam, Germany
2Transdisciplinary Concepts & Methods, Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research, Telegrafenberg A31, 14473 Potsdam, Germany
3Department of Physics, Humboldt University, Newtonstraße 15, 12489 Berlin, Germany
4Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Kräftriket 2B, 114 19 Stockholm, Sweden
5Department of Geography, Humboldt University, Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin, Germany
6Integrative Research Institute on Transformations of Human-Environment Systems, Humboldt University, Unter den Linden 6, 10099 Berlin, Germany
Abstract. Human societies depend on the resources ecosystems provide. Particularly since the last century, human activities have transformed the relationship between nature and society at a global scale. We study this coevolutionary relationship by utilizing a stylized model of private resource use and social learning on an adaptive network. The latter process is based on two social key dynamics beyond economic paradigms: boundedly rational imitation of resource use strategies and homophily in the formation of social network ties. The private and logistically growing resources are harvested with either a sustainable (small) or non-sustainable (large) effort. We show that these social processes can have a profound influence on the environmental state, such as determining whether the private renewable resources collapse from overuse or not. Additionally, we demonstrate that heterogeneously distributed regional resource capacities shift the critical social parameters where this resource extraction system collapses. We make these points to argue that, in more advanced coevolutionary models of the planetary social–ecological system, such socio-cultural phenomena as well as regional resource heterogeneities should receive attention in addition to the processes represented in established Earth system and integrated assessment models.

Citation: Barfuss, W., Donges, J. F., Wiedermann, M., and Lucht, W.: Sustainable use of renewable resources in a stylized social–ecological network model under heterogeneous resource distribution, Earth Syst. Dynam., 8, 255-264, https://doi.org/10.5194/esd-8-255-2017, 2017.
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Short summary
Human societies depend on the resources ecosystems provide. We study this coevolutionary relationship by utilizing a stylized model of resource users on a social network. This model demonstrates that social–cultural processes can have a profound influence on the environmental state, such as determining whether the resources collapse from overuse or not. This suggests that social–cultural processes should receive more attention in the modeling of sustainability transitions and the Earth system.
Human societies depend on the resources ecosystems provide. We study this coevolutionary...
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