Multi-causal and integrated assessment of sustainability: The case of agriculturization in the Argentine Pampas

David Manuel-Navarrete, Gilberto C. Gallopín, Mariela Blanco, Martín Díaz-Zorita, Diego O. Ferraro, Hilda Herzer, Pedro Laterra, María R. Murmis, Guillermo P. Podestá, Jorge Rabinovich, Emilio H. Satorre, Filemón Torres, Ernesto F. Viglizzo

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Assessing the sustainability of complex development processes requires multi-causal and integrated analyses. We develop a system-based methodology, rooted in interdisciplinary discussion and consensus building between 15 experts, to construct a multi-causal diagram which examines the sustainability of the Argentine Pampaś process of agriculturization. The resulting diagram includes 25 factors and provides a big-picture of the multiple dimensions and interrelations affecting sustainability. According to this examination, the increasing concentration of production and the incorporation of technological innovations, triggered by economic and institutional factors, are the cause of environmental distresses and social changes, whose consequences for sustainability are still highly disputed. Nevertheless, the symptoms of both environmental and social unsustainability are more evident in the case of the extra-Pampean regions than in the Pampas. This suggests that the Pampean agriculture model should not be transferred to these regions without substantial modifications. The experts did not reach consensus on whether the agriculturization process is overall sustainable or unsustainable. Lack of consensus revolved mainly around opposing perspectives regarding the significance of the threats to environmental sustainability. The magnitude of socio-distributive unbalance and loss of rural jobs were also contentious. Yet, the paper shows how the exercise of building a joint causal diagram was undoubtedly helpful for linking piece-meal disciplinary facts, brought in from all fronts, into a comprehensive and coherent picture.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)621-638
Number of pages18
JournalEnvironment, Development and Sustainability
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2009
Externally publishedYes


  • Agriculturization
  • Integrated assessment
  • Multi-causal diagrams
  • Pampas
  • Sustainability
  • Syndromes of global change

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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