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Title: Social-ecological tipping points in world deltas : designing a safe and just operating space for the Chilika lagoon fishery, India
Author: Cooper, Gregory Stephen
ISNI:       0000 0004 7234 2237
Awarding Body: University of Southampton
Current Institution: University of Southampton
Date of Award: 2018
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Systems of feedbacks, delays and cross-scale interactions can undergo surprising dynamics. Climate change and globalisation are magnifying social-ecological complexities across regional systems, questioning policies that prioritise stability over variability, predictability over adaptability, and optimisation over persistence. Similar concerns extend to modelling techniques that explore a limited number of scenarios framed by stationary external conditions and an absence of human-natural feedbacks. Such methods are ill-equipped to identify safe and just operating spaces for sustainable development, characterised by interacting environmental limits, tipping points and regime shifts. To this end, this study develops and evaluates a system dynamics model to identify the safe and just operating spaces of a natural resource system with a legacy of collapse. Based on the Chilika lagoon fishery of the Mahanadi delta, India, the model explores how decision-makers can influence internal resilience to a spectrum of plausible driver trajectories and interactions. The principal contribution of this study is the operationalisation of the safe and just spaces concept as a forward-looking tool to identify interacting pathways to sustainable futures. Specific to Chilika, periodically dredging the tidal outlet desensitises the fishery to the hydroclimatic processes causing collapse under do nothing governance. However, stable resource availability facilitates fishing effort growth that can trigger overexploitation by 2050. Amongst a suite of social-ecological trade-offs, fishing bans and alternative livelihoods widen the safe spaces but require decision-makers to forgo Chilika’s common-pool status. Normative safe spaces are found to have properties of social-ecological resilience, including latitude, resistance and precariousness. These characteristics help identify “core” safe and just spaces, representing interacting trajectories with the highest chances of reaching the sustainable future. Contrastingly, futures of fishery overcapacity and livelihood loss associate with deeply undesirable dynamics, including ecological surprise, tipping points and hysteresis. This study is transferable to social-ecological system of stocks and flows, feedbacks and future uncertainty, highlighting considerations for how we view sustainability and shape regional systems to avoid boundaries of safe and just spaces.
Supervisor: Dearing, John ; Darby, Stephen Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available