Robustness, institutions, and large-scale change in social-ecological systems

The Hohokam of the Phoenix Basin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

42 Citations (Scopus)

Abstract

Societies frequently generate public infrastructure and institutional arrangements in order to mediate short-term environmental fluctuations. However, the social and ecological consequences of activities dealing with short-term disturbances may increase the vulnerability of the system to infrequent events or to long-term change in patterns of short-term variability. Exploring this possibility requires the study of long-term, transformational change. The archaeological record provides many examples of long-term change, such as the Hohokam who occupied the Phoenix Basin for over a thousand years and developed a complex irrigation society. In the eleventh and fourteenth centuries, the Hohokam society experienced reductions in complexity and scale possibly associated with regional climatic events. We apply a framework designed to explore robustness in coupled social-ecological systems to the Hohokam Cultural Sequence. Based on this analysis, a stylized formal model is developed to explore the possibility that the success of the Hohokam irrigation system and associated social structure may have increased their vulnerability to rare climactic shocks.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)133-155
Number of pages23
JournalJournal of Institutional Economics
Volume2
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 2006

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Social-ecological systems
Robustness
Vulnerability
Irrigation
Formal model
Public infrastructure
Fluctuations
Archaeology
Institutional arrangements
Social structure

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics, Econometrics and Finance(all)

Cite this

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abstract = "Societies frequently generate public infrastructure and institutional arrangements in order to mediate short-term environmental fluctuations. However, the social and ecological consequences of activities dealing with short-term disturbances may increase the vulnerability of the system to infrequent events or to long-term change in patterns of short-term variability. Exploring this possibility requires the study of long-term, transformational change. The archaeological record provides many examples of long-term change, such as the Hohokam who occupied the Phoenix Basin for over a thousand years and developed a complex irrigation society. In the eleventh and fourteenth centuries, the Hohokam society experienced reductions in complexity and scale possibly associated with regional climatic events. We apply a framework designed to explore robustness in coupled social-ecological systems to the Hohokam Cultural Sequence. Based on this analysis, a stylized formal model is developed to explore the possibility that the success of the Hohokam irrigation system and associated social structure may have increased their vulnerability to rare climactic shocks.",
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