Recent social and biogeophysical changes in the Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna, Mekong, and Amazon deltas as inputs into evolutionary policy-making.
Tuesday, 16 December 2014: 8:40 AM
Policy-making in social-ecological systems increasingly looks to iterative, evolutionary approaches that can address the inherent complexity of interactions between human wellbeing, agricultural and aquacultural production, and ecosystem services. Here we show how an analysis of available time-series in delta regions over past decades can provide important insight into the social-ecological system dynamics that result from the complexity. The presentation summarises the recent changes for major elements of each social-ecological system, for example demography, economy, health, climate, food, and water. Time-series data from official statistics, monitoring programmes and sequential satellite imagery are analysed to define the range of trends, the presence of change points, slow and fast variables, and the significant drivers of change. For example, in the Bangladesh delta zone, increasing gross domestic product and per capita income levels since the 1980s mirror rising levels of food and inland fish production. In contrast, non-food ecosystem services such as water availability, water quality and land stability have deteriorated. As a result, poverty alleviation is associated with environmental degradation. Trends in indicators of human wellbeing and ecosystem services point to widespread non-stationary dynamics governed by slowly changing variables with increased probability of systemic threshold changes/tipping points in the near future. We conclude by examining how the findings could feed into new management tools, such as system dynamic models and assessments of safe operating spaces. Such tools have the potential to help create policies that deliver alternative and sustainable paths for land management while accommodating social and environmental change.