A Conceptual Framework for Analyzing Deltas as Coupled Social-Ecological Systems: An example from the Amazon Delta

Thursday, 17 December 2015: 16:45
3001 (Moscone West)
Eduardo Brondizio1, Nathan D Vogt2, Scott Hetrick1, Sandra M F da Costa3 and Edward Anthony4, (1)Indiana University Bloomington, Bloomington, IN, United States, (2)INPE National Institute for Space Research, Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil, (3)Universidade do Vale do Paráiba (UNIVAP), Sao Jose dos Campos, Brazil, (4)Aix Marseille University, Marseille Cedex 03, France
At the nexus of watersheds, land, coastal areas, oceans, and human settlements, river delta regions pose specific challenges to environmental governance and sustainability. Using the Amazon Delta (AD) as our focus we reflect on the challenges created by the high degree of functional interdependencies shaping social-ecological dynamics of delta regions. The article introduces the initial design of an integrated  conceptual framework to analyze delta regions as coupled social-ecological systems (SES). The first component of the framework is used to provide integrated definitions of delta regions according to a problem and/or collective action dilemma. Five different systematic components are suggested: social-economic systems, governance systems, ecosystems-resource systems, topographic-hydrological systems, and oceanic-climate systems. The second component of the framework presents a strategy for nested social ecological analysis to examine collective action situations in delta regions from local to regional and basin levels. The article provides illustrative applications of the framework to the Amazon Delta. First, it is used to define the AD region as a coupled, multi-level SES. We further proposed a definition of what we call the core SES of the AD. We then utilize the framework to diagnose an example collective action problem related to the impacts of urban growth and pollution on small-scale fishing resources. We argue that the functional interdependencies characteristic of delta regions require new approaches to understand, diagnose, and evaluate the current and future impact of social and environmental changes and potential solutions to the sustainability dilemmas characteristic of these regions.