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Syndromes of Production in Agriculture: Prospects for Social-Ecological Regime Change

John H. Vandermeer, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, University of Michigan
Ivette Perfecto, School of Natural Resources, University of Michigan

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-04813-170439

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Abstract

Agricultural syndromes of production can be recognized in both historical and contemporary times. Recent literature in ecology focuses on alternative ecological states and the tipping points that may separate them, suggesting a point of view that “regime” changes will happen at those points. In agricultural ecosystems the idea of a regime is equivalent to a syndrome of production and there is no reason not to expect that regime switches will occur when tipping points are reached. Using very minimal qualitative models of economic and ecological forces, it is shown that the basic structure of regime change expected in natural ecosystems might be also expected in agroecosystems. In particular structures of nonlinearity suggest alternative syndromes and the potential for catastrophic shifts resulting from small changes in driving conditions. Furthermore, relaxing the assumption of monotonicity reveals the potential for such catastrophic shifts resulting from stochastic forces or chaotic dynamics, even in the absence of changes in driving conditions.

Key words

agriculture; production syndromes; regime change; stability
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087