Socio-environmental sustainability of indigenous lands: Simulating coupled human-natural systems in the Amazon

Takuya Iwamura, Eric F. Lambin, Kirsten M. Silvius, Jeffrey B. Luzar, José M.V. Fragoso

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Understanding pathways to environmental sustainability in tropical regions is a priority for conservation and development policies. Because drivers of environmental degradation often occur simultaneously a holistic approach is needed. We analyzed environmental degradation on demarcated indigenous lands in Guyana, using a spatially explicit, agent-based simulation model representing human livelihoods, forest dynamics, and animal metapopulations. We examined four plausible drivers of ecological degradation: conversion of land for agro-industrial use, erosion of hunting and dietary taboos, reduction in child mortality rates, and introduction of external food resources. Although social-ecological systems were resilient to internal changes, the introduction of external food resources resulted in large fluctuations in the system, leading to a deterioration in environmental sustainability. Our simulation model also revealed unexpected linkages within the system; for example, population growth rates of non-human animal species were related to the sustainability of human livelihoods. We highlight the value of simulation models as social-ecological experiments that can synthesize interdisciplinary knowledge bases and support policy development.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)77-83
Number of pages7
JournalFrontiers in Ecology and the Environment
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1 Mar 2016


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