Wednesday 7
Disaster Resilience 1
Anne Leitch
› 11:30 - 12:30 (1h)
Mega-disaster and Socio-ecological Transitions
Wei Liu  1@  , Stefan Hochrainer-Stigler  1@  
1 : International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis  (IIASA)

Transitions in complex socio-ecological systems are intermediate phases between two successive and more stable periods or states and involve various societal, ecological, and biophysical changes that are often non-linear and inter-related. Understanding transitions is challenging but important for guiding and shaping socio-ecological systems for achieving environmental sustainability and improving human well-being. Natural disasters, especially the low-probability, high-consequence ones that are occuring more frequently worldwide, can significantly alter the transition trajectories of socio-ecological systems and jeopardize their long-term sustainability. There have been very few empirical studies on this important issue, mainly due to the lack of long-term pre-disaster information and data.

Wolong Nature Reserve in China is home to ~150 wild pandas (Ailuropoda melanoleuca), several thousand other animal and plant species, and ~5000 local residents. A long-term research on human-nature relationships in Wolong Nature Reserve, China has been conducted since the late 1990s. Over the past 15 years we observed a series of major transitions in land use, land cover, economic structure, and energy consumption, mainly due to the implementation of a series of development and conservation policies. A mega-disaster, the 7.9 Mw Wenchuan earthquakes, struck the boundary of the Reserve and caused massive damages and serious disruptions on May 12 in 2008. We take a special look on detailed household survey data (income, expenditure, energy consumption, and land use activities, etc.) over a nine-year period before as well as one and several years after the earthquake. About 200 households from six villages were interviewed and a series of focus group discussions with key stakeholders were also conducted. This unique dataset is used to investigate the question of how pre-earthquake heterogeneity within and across communities affects the household- and community-level coping strategies and recovery trajectories after the earthquake. We also consider the local ecological and socio-economic context and structure them into various types of capitals using the sustainable livelihood approach. This long-term and intensive research not only has direct implications for building disaster resilience and support sustainability transitions in developing countries, but also increases our general understanding of the complexity of socio-ecological systems, such as non-linearity and path-dependent characteristic.

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