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Original article (peer-reviewed)

Journal Environmental Science & Policy
Volume (Issue) 66
Page(s) 129 - 139
Title of proceedings Environmental Science & Policy
DOI 10.1016/j.envsci.2016.09.003

Abstract

Globalization and climate change threaten the sustained provision of essential ecosystem services (ES) for people living in and downstream of mountain regions. The increasing evidence of the many vulnerabilities of mountain social-ecological systems has highlighted the urgent need for policy-relevant research into ways of coping with these trends. In this context, resilience has been emerging as a concept for both understanding and managing the complex social-ecological systems in which ES are provided and consumed. Yet, literature on resilience of social-ecological systems is mainly theoretical with limited application in real-world mountain case studies. In this paper, we present a comprehensive quantitative assessment of the social-ecological resilience of a case study in the Swiss Alps under global change. We model and evaluate an indicator for resilience that shows the capacity of the mountain social-ecological system to provide a set of demanded ES. In a first step, we model the development of this indicator in different scenarios of global change. In a second step, we test the effect of a rich set of policy strategies under all these scenarios to identify types and timing of interventions that are robust under multiple global change settings. Results indicate that the resilience of the mountain social-ecological system is endangered in all scenarios, especially if strong globalization is assumed. Robust strategies that buffer the system against these pressures require early spatial planning action in combination with more targeted direct payments to support the current regional structure and traditional mountain farming practices. Such information is crucial to guide decision-making processes in the era of highly uncertain future global change.
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