Wildlife as drivers of land change? Applying the Social Ecological System framework to analyze agricultural transitions in a human-wildlife conflict landscape

Authors: Roopa Krithivasan*, Clark University
Topics: Agricultural Geography, Land Use and Land Cover Change, Spatial Analysis & Modeling
Keywords: human-wildlife interactions, agriculture, land use change, social ecological systems, collective action
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 5:00 PM / 6:40 PM
Room: Hoover, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Agricultural and mixed-use landscapes provide important habitats and forage to protected wildlife species across the world. At the same time, living alongside protected species — particularly megafauna that damage or destroy crops — stresses agricultural livelihoods, compounds other stressors (such as economic and climate pressures), and can significantly impact farmers’ cultivation practices, land management decisions, and livelihood outcomes. Studies of human-wildlife conflicts (HWCs) in forest-agriculture landscapes suggest that abandonment of arable land may be a common outcome when farmers face frequent, severe crop losses to crop-raiding wildlife. On the other hand, many communities are able to maintain agricultural livelihoods despite living with crop predators by investing in a variety of individual and collective measures to monitor and protect crops and by leveraging institutions to support crop protection efforts. Despite extensive research on the impact of wildlife on livelihoods and fine-scale land-use outcomes, little is known about wildlife’s direct or indirect contributions to broader scale land-use/land cover transitions in agricultural landscapes, and how collective action and institutional engagement impacts these transitions. In this paper, I apply the Social-Ecological Systems Framework to: (1) conceptualize conditions in which local communities act collectively in response to HWC; and (2) evaluate how different formulations of individual and collective management influence land-use decisions and impact land-use transitions — in particular agricultural abandonment — at different scales. I use social and spatial data from seven villages in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh to empirically evaluate the applicability of this framework to HWC in mixed-use agricultural systems.

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