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Toward understanding the dynamics of land change in Latin America: potential utility of a resilience approach for building archetypes of land-systems change

Juan C. Rocha, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University; Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, Swedish Royal Academy of Science
Matilda M. Baraibar, Department of Economic History and International Relations, Stockholm University; Institute of Latin American Studies, Stockholm University
Lisa Deutsch, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University; Institute of Latin American Studies, Stockholm University
Ariane de Bremond, Centre for Development and Environment, University of Bern; International Programme Office, Global Land Programme; University of Maryland, College Park
Jordan S. Oestreicher, Universidade de Brasília, Centro de Desenvolvimento Sustentável
Florencia Rositano, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Facultad de Agronomía, Departamento de Producción Vegetal, Cátedra de Cerealicultura, Buenos Aires, Argentina; CONICET, Universidad de Buenos Aires, IFEVA, Buenos Aires, Argentina
Cecilia C. Gelabert, Universidad de Buenos Aires, Facultad de Agronomía, Departamento de Economía, Desarrollo y Planeamiento Agrícola, Cátedra de Sistemas Agroalimentarios, Buenos Aires, Argentina; Universidad Nacional de Misiones, Facultad de Ciencias Forestales, Área de Producción vegetal con énfasis en sistemas agroalimentarios sustentables, Eldorado, Misiones, Argentina


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Climate change, financial shocks, and fluctuations in international trade are some of the reasons why resilience is increasingly invoked in discussions about land-use policy. However, resilience assessments come with the challenge of operationalization, upscaling their conclusions while considering the context-specific nature of land-use dynamics and the common lack of long-term data. We revisit the approach of system archetypes for identifying resilience surrogates and apply it to land-use systems using seven case studies spread across Latin America. The approach relies on expert knowledge and literature-based characterizations of key processes and patterns of land-use change synthesized in a data template. These narrative accounts are then used to guide development of causal networks, from which potential surrogates for resilience are identified. This initial test of the method shows that deforestation, international trade, technological improvements, and conservation initiatives are key drivers of land-use change, and that rural migration, leasing and land pricing, conflicts in property rights, and international spillovers are common causal pathways that underlie land-use transitions. Our study demonstrates how archetypes can help to differentiate what is generic from context dependant. They help identify common causal pathways and leverage points across cases to further elucidate how policies work and where, as well as what policy lessons might transfer across heterogeneous settings.

Key words

archetypes; land-use change; Latin America; regime shifts; resilience assessment

Copyright © 2019 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087