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Assessing temporal couplings in social–ecological island systems: historical deforestation and soil loss on Mauritius (Indian Ocean)

S.J. Norder, Centre for Ecology, Evolution and Environmental Changes (cE3c) and Azorean Biodiversity Group, Universidade de Lisboa (UL), Lisbon, Portugal; Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED), University of Amsterdam (UvA), Amsterdam, The Netherlands
A.C. Seijmonsbergen, Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED), University of Amsterdam (UvA), Amsterdam, The Netherlands
Soonil D.D.V. Rughooputh, Faculty of Science, University of Mauritius (UoM), Réduit, Mauritius
E.E. van Loon, Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED), University of Amsterdam (UvA), Amsterdam, The Netherlands
V. Tatayah, Mauritian Wildlife Foundation (MWF), Vacoas, Mauritius
A.T. Kamminga, Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED), University of Amsterdam (UvA), Amsterdam, The Netherlands
K.F. Rijsdijk, Institute for Biodiversity and Ecosystem Dynamics (IBED), University of Amsterdam (UvA), Amsterdam, The Netherlands

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-09073-220129

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Abstract

Temporal couplings, such as historical interactions between deforestation and soil loss, are responsible for the current state of a wide range of ecosystem services of the social–ecological system on Mauritius. Islands are suitable study sites for understanding temporal couplings and telecouplings because of their: (1) clearly defined physical boundaries, (2) finite local resources, and (3) relatively short human history.

Six well-documented historical deforestation maps, starting from the first colonization of Mauritius in 1638, were used as input parameters to model two scenarios of cumulative soil loss, with and without deforestation, using the revised universal soil loss equation in a geographic information system.

The scenarios show that historical deforestation since 1638 has resulted in a cumulative soil loss that drastically exceeds soil loss under a natural baseline scenario without deforestation. The adopted method illustrates to what extent the current state of the soil of a social–ecological system is negatively affected by past human–environment interactions. We suggest that potential negative impacts on insular societies are mitigated by telecouplings such as food, fuel, and fertilizer imports.

Key words

deforestation; historical soil loss; islands; Mauritius; RUSLE; social–ecological systems; telecouplings; temporal couplings

Copyright © 2017 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087