Operationalizing safe operating space for regional social-ecological systems

Hossain, M. S. , Dearing, J. A., Eigenbrod, F. and Johnson, F. A. (2017) Operationalizing safe operating space for regional social-ecological systems. Science of the Total Environment, 584–5, pp. 673-682. (doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2017.01.095) (PMID:28126278)

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This study makes a first attempt to operationalize the safe operating space concept at a regional scale by considering the complex dynamics (e.g. non-linearity, feedbacks, and interactions) within a systems dynamic model (SD). We employ the model to explore eight ‘what if’ scenarios based on well-known challenges (e.g. climate change) and current policy debates (e.g. subsidy withdrawal). The findings show that the social-ecological system in the Bangladesh delta may move beyond a safe operating space when a withdrawal of a 50% subsidy for agriculture is combined with the effects of a 2 °C temperature increase and sea level rise. Further reductions in upstream river discharge in the Ganges would push the system towards a dangerous zone once a 3.5 °C temperature increase was reached. The social-ecological system in Bangladesh delta may be operated within a safe space by: 1) managing feedback (e.g. by reducing production costs) and the slow biophysical variables (e.g. temperature, rainfall) to increase the long-term resilience, 2) negotiating for transboundary water resources, and 3) revising global policies (e.g. withdrawal of subsidy) that negatively impact at regional scales. This study demonstrates how the concepts of tipping points, limits to adaptations, and boundaries for sustainable development may be defined in real world social-ecological systems.

Item Type:Articles
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Sohel, Dr MD Sarwar
Authors: Hossain, M. S., Dearing, J. A., Eigenbrod, F., and Johnson, F. A.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Interdisciplinary Studies
Journal Name:Science of the Total Environment
ISSN (Online):1879-1026
Published Online:23 January 2017
Copyright Holders:Copyright © 2017 The Authors
First Published:First published in Science of the Total Environment 584-585:673-682
Publisher Policy:Reproduced under a Creative Commons Licence

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