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Understanding Complex Human Ecosystems: The Case of Ecotourism on Bonaire

Thomas Abel, National Taipei University

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Abstract

It is suggested that ecotourism development on the island of Bonaire can be productively understood as a perturbation of a complex human ecosystem. Inputs associated with ecotourism have fueled transformations of the island ecology and sociocultural system. The results of this study indicate that Bonaire's social and economic hierarchy is approaching a new, stable systems state following a 50-yr transition begun by government and industry that stabilized with the appearance of ecotourism development and population growth. Ecotourism can be understood to have "filled in" the middle of the production hierarchy of Bonaire. Interpreted from this perspective, population growth has completed the transformation by expanding into production niches at smaller scales in the production hierarchy. Both a consequence and a cause, ecotourism has transformed the island's social structure and demography. The theory and methods applied in this case study of interdisciplinary research in the field of human ecosystems are also presented.

Key words

Bonaire, complex systems, cultural evolution, ecological economics, ecosystems, emergy, human demography, political ecology, social structure, sociocultural systems, world systems
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087