Effect of infrastructure design on commons dilemmas in social−ecological system dynamics

TitleEffect of infrastructure design on commons dilemmas in social−ecological system dynamics
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2015
AuthorsYu DJ, Qubbaj MR, Muneepeerakul R, Anderies JM, Aggarwal R
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
Start Page13207
Date Published10/2015

The use of shared infrastructure to direct natural processes for the benefit of humans has been a central feature of human social organization for millennia. Today, more than ever, people interact with one another and the environment through shared human-made infrastructure (the Internet, transportation, the energy grid, etc.). However, there has been relatively little work on how the design characteristics of shared infrastructure affect the dynamics of social− ecological systems (SESs) and the capacity of groups to solve social dilemmas associated with its provision. Developing such understanding is especially important in the context of global change where design criteria must consider how specific aspects of infrastructure affect the capacity of SESs to maintain vital functions in the face of shocks. Using small-scale irrigated agriculture (the most ancient and ubiquitous example of public infrastructure systems) as a model system, we show that two design features related to scale and the structure of benefit flows can induce fundamental changes in qualitative behavior, i.e., regime shifts. By relating the required maintenance threshold (a design feature related to infrastructure scale) to the incentives facing users under different regimes, our work also provides some general guidance on determinants of robustness of SESs under globalization-related stresses.

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Effect of infrastructure design on commons dilemmas

 The authors address the question of how infrastructure design affects SES sustainability in two stages. First, they explore the effects of design variations in shared infrastructure on long-term system behavior in a model system. They examine two types of distribution infrastructure, one with and one without upstream−downstream asymmetry, and different threshold characteristics of infrastructure maintenance. Second, they evaluate how these design variations influence the robustness of...
09 Oct 2016