Evolutionary social and biogeophysical changes in the Amazon, Ganges–Brahmaputra–Meghna and Mekong deltas

de Araujo Barbosa, C. C., Dearing, J., Szabo, S., Hossain, M. S. , Nguyen, T. B., Nhan, D. K. and Matthews, Z. (2016) Evolutionary social and biogeophysical changes in the Amazon, Ganges–Brahmaputra–Meghna and Mekong deltas. Sustainability Science, 11(4), pp. 555-574. (doi: 10.1007/s11625-016-0371-7)

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Policy-making in social-ecological systems increasingly looks to iterative, evolutionary approaches that can address the inherent complexity of interactions between human wellbeing, provision of goods, and the maintenance of ecosystem services. Here, we show how the analysis of available time-series in tropical delta regions over past decades can provide important insight into the social-ecological system dynamics in deltaic regions. The paper provides an exploratory analysis of the recent changes that have occurred in the major elements of three tropical deltaic social-ecological systems, such as demography, economy, health, climate, food, and water. Time-series data from official statistics, monitoring programmes, and Earth observation data are analysed to explore possible trends, slow and fast variables, and observed drivers of change in the Amazon, Ganges–Brahmaputra–Meghna and Mekong deltas. In the Ganges–Brahmaputra–Meghna delta zone, increasing gross domestic product and per capita income levels since the 1980s mirror rising levels of food and inland fish production. In contrast, non-food ecosystem services, such as water availability, water quality, and land stability appear to be deteriorating. In the Amazon delta, natural and anthropogenic perturbations are continuously degrading key ecosystem services, such as carbon storage in biomass and soils, the regulation of water balance, and the modulation of regional climate patterns. In the Mekong delta, rapid economic development, changing land-use practices, and salinity intrusion are progressively putting more pressure on the delivery of important provisioning services, such as rice and inland aquaculture production, which are key sources of staple food, farm incomes, and export revenue. Observed changes in many key indicators of ecosystem services point to a changing dynamic state and increased probability of systemic threshold transformations in the near future.

Item Type:Articles
Additional Information:This work has been funded by the Coordination for the Improvement of Higher Education Personnel (CAPES) Foundation within the Ministry of Education, Brazil through research grant provided to de Araujo Barbosa, C. C (BEX: 0327-12-3). Dearing, J. A., Szabo, S., and Matthews, Z. contributions were supported by the international Belmont Forum project “Catalyzing action toward sustainability of deltaic systems with an integrated modelling framework for risk assessment” (Award No. 1342944). Md. Sarwar Hossain acknowledges financial support provided by a joint NERC/ESRC interdisciplinary Ph.D. studentship award and the University of Southampton. This is a Sustainability Science at Southampton publication.
Glasgow Author(s) Enlighten ID:Sohel, Dr MD Sarwar
Authors: de Araujo Barbosa, C. C., Dearing, J., Szabo, S., Hossain, M. S., Nguyen, T. B., Nhan, D. K., and Matthews, Z.
College/School:College of Social Sciences > School of Interdisciplinary Studies
Journal Name:Sustainability Science
ISSN (Online):1862-4057
Published Online:13 May 2016

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