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The Chilika Lagoon Social-Ecological System: An Historical Analysis

Prateep K. Nayak, Faculty of Environment, University of Waterloo


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Innovations in social-ecological research require novel approaches to conceive change in human-environment systems. The study of history constitutes an important element of this process. First, using the Chilika Lagoon small-scale fisheries in India, as a case, in this paper I reflect on the appropriateness of a social-ecological perspective for understanding economic history. Second, I examine here how changes in various components of the lagoon’s social-ecological system influenced and shaped economic history and the political processes surrounding it. I then discuss the two-way linkages between economic history and social-ecological processes to highlight that the components of a social-ecological system, including the economic aspects, follow an interactive and interdependent trajectory such that their combined impacts have important implications for human-environment connections and sustainability of the system as a whole. Social, ecological, economic, and political components of a system are interlinked and may jointly contribute to the shaping of specific histories. Based on this synthesis, I offer insights to move beyond theoretical, methodological, and disciplinary boundaries as an overarching approach, an inclusive lens, to study change in complex social-ecological systems.

Key words

aquaculture; Chilika Lagoon; drivers; economic history; human-environment disconnection; India; livelihoods; marginalization; small-scale fisheries; social-ecological change; social-ecological systems; sustainability
Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087