How Humans and Environment Are Coupled Examples

There are several examples on how human and environment systems are coupled and how human choices and the consequent environmental effects influence each other. The following are two examples regarding southern Yucatan and Arctic region.

Southeastern Mexico retains parts of the largest continuous expanse of tropical forests in Middle America. One part of the 22 500 km southern Yucatan peninsular region experienced extensive, state-led development

Table 1 Key features of socioecological system structures and functions

Change Change is episodic, with periods of slow accumulation of natural capital punctuated by sudden releases and reorganizations of biotic capital

Spatial They are neither uniform nor scale invariant. There are several different ranges of scales, each with different attributes attributes of architectural patchiness and texture and each established and sustained by a specific set of abiotic and biotic processes

Stability domain Ecosystems do not have a single equilibrium and homeostatic controls that keep them near it, rather, multiple equilibria commonly defining different functional states within the same stability domain Policies and Policies and management that apply fixed rules, independently of scale, could lead systems to lose resilience management beginning in the late 1960s, causing deforestation with consequences on human well-being. In this region, almost all farmers cultivate maize for subsistence and, increasingly, have undertaken commercial chilli production, giving rise to a fragmented landscape of opened and suc-cessional forest land. Increasing reliance on commercial chilli production has raised household income but simultaneously driven large swings in this income. This is because chilli is water, pest, and disease sensitive, and the price in the region is highly variable. At the same time, the area is characterized by two main environmental hazards: water stress and hurricanes. The natural land covers, seasonal tropical forests, are adapted to water stress, because they drop foliage during the dry season, while farmers respond to this stress by taking an early dry-season catch crop. On the other hand, severe hurricanes and subsequent dry-season fires knock down large stretches of forest that need a long time to regrow. Hurricanes arrive during the main harvest period, damaging crops, especially chilli, by winds, rain, and floodwater, because a fragmented landscape creates more forest edges exposed to severe winds, damaging near-edge trees. This more open landscape causes less wind protection for crops, with consequences on local economy and human well-being.

Environmental and social changes have had and are expected to have significant effects on coupled humanenvironment systems in the Arctic. The Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Program have stated that although the Arctic is a relatively clean environment, it continues to suffer from significant pollution hazards, especially with regard to heavy metals and persistent organic pollutants. At the same time, native Arctic peoples have also experienced significant social changes over the past three decades, establishing new relationships between local and national governments, becoming more closely connected to external markets and ways of life, and asserting their identity, rights, and culture in legal and policy forums. Three kinds of stressors interest the Arctic region: (1) climate change with consequences on snow cover, sea ice, and extreme weather events; (2) environmental pollution; and (3) societal trends in terms of consumption, governance and regulation, and markets. These represent threats to human health and well-being, indigenous cultures and food security, and human settlements and development. The Arctic region is an example of cross-scale systems interaction, because the decisions taken in different regions affect people living in the Arctic region: global market, climate change, and environmental pollution.

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