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Integrated Analysis of Robustness in Dynamic Social Ecological Systems

There are many examples of societies which have endured for long periods, successfully coping with uncertainty, disturbance, and change in the environment. There are also many examples of societies which have failed in this regard. The core question addressed in this interdisciplinary research project was why some social-ecological systems are more successful in navigating disturbances and change in the environment than others. The investigators hypothesized that an important factor impinging upon this question is a well-known phenomenon in engineering: a system cannot be robust to all classes of disturbances. Thus, in developing mechanisms to address an existing suite of uncertainties and environmental risks (becoming robust to a particular class of disturbances), society necessarily becomes vulnerable to other classes of disturbances. Through the application of several complementary quantitative techniques to a suite of mathematical models based on a large set of case studies, the research team explored such robustness - fragility trade-offs in a range of simple irrigation societies. The research team employed methods and insights from applied mathematics, electrical engineering (control), resource economics, archaeology, and ecology to develop an integrated approach to study how societies deal with uncertainty, disturbance and change. 

The products from the project are 1) an empirical database and a suite of formal mathematical models relating to the basic biophysical, social, and institutional characteristics of several irrigation societies, 2) a deeper understanding of how societies may become fragile as they attempt to cope with uncertainty and change in the environment, and 3) new tools for resource managers: a set of design principles for robust institutions that perform well in the face of both social and environmental disturbances. The research team, composed of social, physical, and engineering scientists, combined their expertise to generate new fundamental knowledge concerning the interaction between human social dynamics and environmental change, to improve resource management practice, and to enhance mathematical education. 

By bringing together techniques from a range of disciplines, we developed new tools for the study of social-ecological systems that are able to cope with more complexity than traditional approaches. Our research results may have important implications for resource management by providing tools to help predict when alternative responses to disturbance and environmental change will succeed and how they will most likely fail. Research findings were translated into practice through the efforts of the Resilience Alliance (http://www.resalliance.org), an international organization that produces research, educational materials and practical management tools for resource managers. The research project contributed to ongoing activities at ASU to enhance numeracy in the life and social sciences. Both graduate and undergraduate students were engaged in a problem-focused research program involving mathematics, economics, engineering, ecology, and archeology where they learned the importance and power of mathematical analysis in context. This along with their participation in teaching and learning communities immersed students in research at the boundary of natural and social sciences involving mathematics through one-on-one mentoring and targeted summer workshops.

Project Period: 2005-2011

Organizational Partners

Research Products

PUBLICATIONS RESULTING FROM THIS RESEARCH

Ostrom, E; Janssen, MA; Anderies, JM. "Going beyond panaceas," PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, v.104, 2007, p. 15176. View record at Web of Science 

Anderies JM, Nelson BA, Kinzig AP. "Analyzing the impact of agave cultivation on famine risk in arid pre-Hispanic northern Mexico," HUMAN ECOLOGY, v.36, 2008, p. 409.

Walker, B. H., N. Abel, J. M. Anderies, and P. Ryan. "Resilience, adaptability, and transformability in the Goulburn-Broken Catchment, Australia," Ecology & Society, v.12, 2009, p. Article 1.

Cox, M.. "Balancing accuracy and meaning in common-pool resource theory," Ecology & Society, v.13, 2008, p. Article 4.

Janssen, MA and Anderies, JM. "Robustness trade-offs in Social Ecological Systems," International Journal of the Commons, v.1(1), 2007, p. 43.

Liu, Jianguo, Thomas Dietz, Stephen Carpenter, Carl Folke, Marina Alberti, Charles Redman, Stephen Schneider, Elinor Ostrom, Alice Pell, Jane Lubchenco, William Taylor, Zhiyun Ouyang, Peter Deadman, Timothy Kratz, and William Provencher. "Coupled Human and Natural Systems," Ambio, v.36, 2007, p. 639.

Anderies, JM; Rodriguez, AA; Janssen, MA; Cifdaloz, O. "Panaceas, uncertainty, and the robust control framework in sustainability science," PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, v.104, 2007, p. 15194. View record at Web of Science 

Ostrom, Elinor. "The Institutional Analysis and Development Framework and the Commons," Cornell Law Review, v.95, 2010, p. 807.

Cifdaloz, O., A. Regmi, J. M. Anderies and A. A. Rodriguez. "Robustness, vulnerability, and adaptive capacity in small-scale social-ecological systems: The Pumpa Irrigation System in Nepal," Ecology and Society, v.15(3), 2010, p. 39.

Michael Cox, Justin M. Ross. "Robustness and vulnerability of community irrigation systems: The case of the Taos valley acequias," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, v.61(3), 2011, p. 254.

Janssen MA, Anderies JM, Ostrom E. "Robustness of social-ecological systems to spatial and temporal variability," SOCIETY & NATURAL RESOURCES 20 (4): 307-322 APR 2007, v.20, 2007, p. 307.

Ostrom, Elinor. "A Diagnostic Approach for Going Beyond Panaceas," PROCEEDINGS OF THE NATIONAL ACADEMY OF SCIENCES OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, v.104, 2007, p. 15181.

Janssen, M. A.. "Population aggregation in ancient arid environments," Ecology and Society, v.15, 2010, p. /iss2/art.

Lam, W-F., and E. Ostrom. "Analyzing the dynamic complexity of development interventions: lessons from an irrigatation experiment in Nepal," Policy Sciences, v.43(1), 2009, p. 1.

Janssen, M. A.. "Population aggregation in ancient arid environments," Ecology and Society, v.15, 2010, p. iss2/art1.

Steed, Brian. "Government Payments for Ecosystem Services? Lessons from Costa Rica," Journal of Land Use and Environmental Law, v.23, 2007, p. 177.

Ostrom, Elinor. "Beyond Markets and States: Polycentric Governance of Complex Economic Systems," American Economic Review, v.100, 2010, p. 641.

Armando A. Rodriguez, Oguzhan Cifdaloz, John Martin Anderies, Marco A. Janssen and Jeffrey Dickeson. "Confronting Management Challenges in Highly Uncertain Natural Resource Systems: A Robustness-Vulnerability Trade-off Approach," Environmental Modeling and Assessment, v.16, 2011.

Janssen, M., J. Anderies, and S. Joshi. "Coordination and Cooperation in Asymmetric Commons Dilemmas," Experimental Economics, 2011.

Lam, Wai Fung, and Elinor Ostrom. "Analyzing the Dynamic Complexity of Development Interventions: Lessons from an Irrigation Experiment in Nepal," Policy Sciences, v.43, 2010, p. 1.

Ostrom, Elinor. "Challenges and Growth: The Development of the Interdisciplinary Field of Institutional Analysis.," Journal of Institutional Economics, v.3, 2007, p. 239.

Margaret Nelson, Keith Kintigh, David Abbott, John Anderies. "The cross-scale interplay between social and biophysical context and the vulnerability of irrigation-dependent societies: archaeology--a long-term perspective," Ecology and Society, v.15(3), 2010, p. 31.

BOOKS/ONE TIME PROCEEDING

Ostrom, Elinor. "Multiple Institutions for Multiple Outcomes", 09/01/2007-08/31/2008, , Alex Smajgl and Silva Larson"Sustainable Resource Use: Institutional Dynamics and Economics," 2007, Sterling, VA: Earthscan.

Ostrom, Elinor, and Harini Nagendra. "Governing the Commons in the New Millennium: A Diversity of Institutions for Natural Resource Management", 09/01/2007-08/31/2008,  Cutler J. Cleveland "Encyclopedia of Earth", 2007, "Washington, DC: Environmental Information Coalition, National Council for Science and the Environment, November 16, 2007, online. http://www.earthportal.org/?p=474".

Ostrom, Elinor. "Multiple Institutions for Multiple Outcomes", 09/01/2008-08/31/2009, , Alex Smajgl and Silva Larson"Sustainable Resource Use: Institutional Dynamics and Economics", 2007, "Sterling, VA: Earthscan".

Ostrom, Elinor, and Harini Nagendra. "Governing the Commons in the New Millennium: A Diversity of Institutions for Natural Resource Management", 09/01/2008-08/31/2009, , Cutler J. Cleveland"Encyclopedia of Earth", 2007, "Washington, DC: Environmental Information Coalition, National Council for Science and the Environment, November 16, 2007, online. http://www.earthportal.org/?p=474".

Hallie Eakin, Emma L. Tompkins, Donald R. Nelson and John M. Anderies. "Hidden costs and disparate uncertainties: trade-offs in approaches to climate policy", 09/01/2008-08/31/2009, , W. Neil Adger, Irene Lorenzoni and Karen L. O?Brien"Adapting to Climate Change
Thresholds, Values, Governance
", 2009, "ISBN-13: 9780521764858".

Ostrom, Elinor. "Multiple Institutions for Multiple Outcomes", 09/01/2009-08/31/2010, , Alex Smajgl and Silva Larson"Sustainable Resource Use: Institutional Dynamics and Economics", 2007, "Sterling, VA: Earthscan".

Ostrom, Elinor, and Harini Nagendra. "Governing the Commons in the New Millennium: A Diversity of Institutions for Natural Resource Management", 09/01/2009-08/31/2010, , Cutler J. Cleveland"Encyclopedia of Earth", 2007, "Washington, DC: Environmental Information Coalition, National Council for Science and the Environment, November 16, 2007, online. http://www.earthportal.org/?p=474".

Hallie Eakin, Emma L. Tompkins, Donald R. Nelson and John M. Anderies. "Hidden costs and disparate uncertainties: trade-offs in approaches to climate policy", 09/01/2009-08/31/2010, , W. Neil Adger, Irene Lorenzoni and Karen L. O?Brien"Adapting to Climate Change
Thresholds, Values, Governance
", 2009, "ISBN-13: 9780521764858".

Ostrom, Elinor. "Social Cooperation in Collective-Action Situations", 09/01/2009-08/31/2010, , Hans Jürgen Rösner and Frank Schulz-Nieswandt"Beiträge der genossenschaftlichen Selbsthilfe zur wirtschaftlichen und sozialen Entwicklung", 2009, "University of Cologne, Germany".

Ostrom, Elinor. "The Contribution of Community Institutions to Environmental Problem-Solving", 09/01/2009-08/31/2010, , Albert Breton, Giorgio Brosio, Silvana Dalmazzone, and Giovanna Garrone"In Governing the Environment: Salient Institutional Issues", 2009, "Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar".

Ostrom, Elinor. "Multiple Institutions for Multiple Outcomes", 09/01/2010-02/28/2011, , Alex Smajgl and Silva Larson"Sustainable Resource Use: Institutional Dynamics and Economics", 2007, "Sterling, VA: Earthscan".

Ostrom, Elinor, and Harini Nagendra. "Governing the Commons in the New Millennium: A Diversity of Institutions for Natural Resource Management", 09/01/2010-02/28/2011, Cutler J. Cleveland "Encyclopedia of Earth," 2007, "Washington, DC: Environmental Information Coalition, National Council for Science and the Environment, November 16, 2007, online. http://www.earthportal.org/?p=474."

Hallie Eakin, Emma L. Tompkins, Donald R. Nelson and John M. Anderies. "Hidden costs and disparate uncertainties: trade-offs in approaches to climate policy," 09/01/2010-02/28/2011, W. Neil Adger, Irene Lorenzoni and Karen L. O'Brien "Adapting to Climate Change
Thresholds, Values, Governance," 2009, "ISBN-13: 9780521764858."

Ostrom, Elinor. "Social Cooperation in Collective-Action Situations", 09/01/2010-02/28/2011, Hans Jürgen Rösner and Frank Schulz-Nieswandt"Beiträge der genossenschaftlichen Selbsthilfe zur wirtschaftlichen und sozialen Entwicklung," 2009, "University of Cologne, Germany."

Ostrom, Elinor. "The Contribution of Community Institutions to Environmental Problem-Solving," 09/01/2010-02/28/2011,  Albert Breton, Giorgio Brosio, Silvana Dalmazzone, and Giovanna Garrone" In Governing the Environment: Salient Institutional Issues," 2009, "Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar."

J. Marty Anderies
Principal investigator
Arizona State University School of Human Evolution and Social Change/Center for the Study of Institutional Diversity/School of Sustainability
Armando Antonio Rodriguez
Co-Principal investigators
Arizona State University Ira A. Fulton School of Engineering
Marco Janssen
Co-Principal investigators
Arizona State University, School of Sustainability
Charles Perring
Co-Principal investigators
Arizona State University, School of Life Sciences
Ann Kinzig
Co-Principal investigators
Arizona State University, School of Sustainability