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Citation Information

Type Journal Article - Global Environmental Change
Title Collapse and recovery in a remote small island—A tale of adaptive cycles or downward spirals?
Author(s)
Volume 19
Issue 2
Publication (Day/Month/Year) 2009
Page numbers 213-226
URL http://imedea.uib-csic.es/master/cambioglobal/Modulo_III_cod101608/Additional reading/Bunce 2009​Collapse and recovery in a-1.pdf
Abstract
Few studies consider how social-ecological systems recover from disturbance. We consider the small
semi-autonomous island of Rodrigues (Indian Ocean). Based on semi-structured interviews (n = 70), a
fisher survey (n = 73), weather data and official records we build a timeline of key events. We tabulate
local perceptions (5+ mentions) of changes (social, economic and natural capital) and look for signs of
adaptive cycles in the island’s social-ecological past. Rising human pressure and extreme weather event
impacts are reported since first settlement. We propose a recent ‘‘collapse’’ phase catalysed in the 1970s
by severe drought, based on respondents’ perceptions of still-ongoing changes in farming and fishing,
water, external dependence, migration and inter-island political change. Connectivity (flows of people,
goods, information, money, power) appear to have strengthed local island recovery, but degradation
continued, not least due to water scarcity and a lack of shared political vision as Rodrigues became more
tied into the wider world.
Overall, our findings suggest social-ecological systems may get stuck in a post-collapse recovery
without any new structure emerging, presuming adaptive cycles can even be detected. Data gaps and
global change redefining spatial and temporal scales could mean the adaptive cycle’s usefulness is
limited in development policy-making contexts.

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