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Quantifying the transient shock response of dynamic agroecosystem variables for improved socio-environmental resilience

Jordan M Carper, Department of Bioresource Engineering, McGill University, Canada
Mohammad Reza Alizadeh, Department of Bioresource Engineering, McGill University, Canada
Jan F Adamowski, Department of Bioresource Engineering, McGill University, Canada
Azhar Inam, Department of Agricultural Engineering, Bahauddin Zakariya University, Pakistan
Julien J Malard, Department of Bioresource Engineering, McGill University, Canada


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In classic resilience thinking, there is an implicit focus on controlling functional variation to maintain system stability. Modern approaches to resilience thinking deal with complex, adaptive system dynamics and true uncertainty; these contemporary frameworks involve the process of learning to live with change and make use of the consequences of transformation and development. In a socio-environmental context, the identification of metrics by which resilience can be effectively and reliably measured is fundamental to understanding the unique vulnerabilities that characterize coupled human and natural systems. We developed an innovative procedure for stakeholder-friendly quantification of socio-environmental resilience metrics. These metrics were calculated and analyzed through the application of discrete disturbance simulations, which were produced using a dynamically coupled, biophysical-socioeconomic modeling framework. Following the development of a unique shock-response assessment regime, five metrics (time to baseline-level recovery, rate of return to baseline, degree of return to baseline, overall post-disturbance perturbation, and corrective impact of disturbance) describing distinct aspects of systemic resilience were quantified for three agroecosystem variables (farm income, water-table depth, and crop revenue) over a period of 30 years (1989–2019) in the Rechna Doab basin of northeastern Pakistan. Using this procedure, we determined that farm income is the least resilient variable of the three tested. Farm income was easily diverted from the “normal” functional paradigm for the Rechna Doab socio-environmental system, regardless of shock type, intensity, or duration combination. Crop revenue was the least stable variable (i.e., outputs fluctuated significantly between very high and very low values). Water-table depth was consistently the most robust and resistant to change, even under physical shock conditions. The procedure developed here should improve the ease with which stakeholders are able to conduct quantitative resilience analyses.

Key words

coupled modeling; metrics; quantification; resilience assessment; social-ecological systems; socio-environmental systems; Tinamit

Copyright © 2021 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087