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Ecosystem Services and Abrupt Transformations in a Coastal Wetland Social-Ecological System: Tubul-Raqui after the 2010 Earthquake in Chile

Andrés Marín, Centro de Conservación Marina and Departamento de Ecología, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile; Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden
Stefan Gelcich, Centro de Conservación Marina and Departamento de Ecología, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile; Laboratorio Internacional en Cambio Global (LincGlobal: PUC-CSIC), Esporles, España.
Juan Carlos Castilla, Centro de Conservación Marina and Departamento de Ecología, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile; Laboratorio Internacional en Cambio Global (LincGlobal: PUC-CSIC), Esporles, España.

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-05633-190122

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Abstract

Natural disasters can trigger sudden transformations and move ecosystems to different states where the provision of ecosystem services is altered. These changes in ecosystem services affect local communities’ well-being and challenge users’ adaptation capacities. We used the ecosystem services framework to understand the impacts of abrupt transformations, in a coastal wetland, associated to a ~ 1.6 meter coseismic uplift after an 8.8 magnitude earthquake in Chile. Using mixed methods we (1) identified and prioritized ecosystem services from Tubul-Raqui wetland; (2) assessed conditions of services and human well-being before and after the earthquake; (3) investigated postcatastrophe human adaptations and responses; and (4) explored users’ interests and visions about possible future social-ecological pathways. Results show spatially diversified effects of the uplift on ecosystem services, both negative and positive, representing threats and opportunities for different user groups around the wetland. The total loss of the cultivated seaweed “pelillo” is associated with the most manifest reduction in perceptions of well-being among coastal users. Adaptive capacities triggered by pre-existing livelihood portfolios generated intensification in the exploitation of less impacted or enhanced ecosystem services which could be reducing resilience. Results show that two years after the transformation there is little attempt to create untried, new beginnings in the Tubul-Raqui wetland from which user groups could evolve to a more innovative livelihood and resource management system after the shift. Although visions about the future are not homogeneous among users, common interests regarding the conservation of key services are shared. The analysis of abrupt transformations through an ecosystem services approach provides a powerful framework for the study of environmental change and associated impacts on local communities.

Key words

adaptation; Millennium Ecosystem Assessment; natural disasters; perceptions; transformations; well-being
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087