Linked social-ecological systems in which surprise and crisis are interspersed with periods of stability and predictability are inherently difficult to manage. This condition, coupled with the legacies of past management actions, typically leaves policy and decision makers few options other than to incrementally adapt and reinforce the current trajectory of the system. Decision making becomes increasingly reactive and incremental as the system moves from one crisis to another. Eventually the system loses its capacity to cope with perturbations and surprise. Using a combination of dynamical-systems modeling and historical analysis, we studied a process of this kind as it developed in the Goulburn Broken Catchment in southeastern Australia over the past 150 years. Using the model to simulate trajectories of the biohydrological system, we correlate the state of the physical system to historical events and management action. We show how sequential management decisions have eroded the resilience of the system (its ability to cope with shocks and surprises) and reduced options for future change. Using the model in a forward-looking mode, we explore future management options and their implications for the resilience of the system.
- Southeastern Australia
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
- Environmental Chemistry