Chapter 14: Complex Dynamics in Ecological-Economic Systems
14. Complex dynamics in ecologic-economic systems J. Barkley Rosser, Jr. A Public Domain, once a velvet carpet of rich buffalo-grass and grama, now an illimitable waste of rattlesnake-bush and tumbleweed, too impoverished to be accepted as a gift by the states within which it lies. Why? Because the ecology of the Southwest happened to be set on a hair trigger. (Aldo Leopold, 1933, “The Conservation Ethic,” Journal of Forestry, 31(6), 636–7) 14.1 Introduction and definitions The question of what constitutes complex dynamics is multi-faceted and complicated, with a variety of definitions being offered. For purposes of this discussion we shall focus on the dynamic definition of complexity provided by Day (1994) and discussed in connection with alternatives by Rosser (1999, Chapter 3 this volume). This definition posits that systems are dynamically complex if they fail to converge to either a point, a limit cycle, or an exponential expansion or contraction due to endogenous causes. The system generates irregular dynamic patterns of some sort, either sudden discontinuities, aperiodic chaotic dynamics subject to sensitive dependence on initial conditions, multi-stability of basins of attraction, or other such irregular patterns. Combined ecologic-economic systems seem to be especially prone to such dynamics, with the resulting problems arising from these becoming serious problems for policy-makers (Rosser, 2001). In this chapter we shall focus on the complex dynamics of fisheries, forests, the global climatic-economic system, and hierarchical systems. Without doubt, prior to the appearance of human beings, ecological systems experienced discontinuities in their dynamic paths,...
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