Tropical lowland forests (economic use), Colombia
This case is a ‘natural resource-use system’ of afro-descendant communities living in a collectively-own tropical forest territory, in the Chocó biogeographic region. This system flipped from a regime characterized by a diversified use of ecosystems, oriented mainly to subsistence and based on cooperative institutions (regime 1), to one centred on timber extraction, oriented mainly to the market and based of remunerated labour (regime 2). Regime 1 was in place for more than two centuries, not just for that population, but for virtually all the afrodescendant groups in de Colombian and Ecuadorian Pacific coast. However, in the last decades a change in the way these communities relate with the environment, as a result from the interventions from the State and big companies, has been documented. In this particular case, the shift seems to have occurred around the 1970s, after a series of biophysical and economic shocks that affected an already stressed system. One key driver was population growth, while two proposed external drivers of change were 1) the many social and production programmes designed by the national government that portrayed the local ways as inefficient and tried to replace them; and 2) the presence of big timber companies influencing a change in way ‘labour’ was viewed. The main feedback loop locking the system in this new regime is the one that links ‘timber extraction’, monetary income’ and ‘satisfaction of basic needs and desires’, and that now dominates over the one that links ‘agriculture’, ‘goods’ and ‘satisfaction of basic needs and desires’. This is further amplified by the almost complete disappearance of cooperative forms of labour, that where replaced by remunerated ones. The impact on the ecosystem is an increasing rate of timber extraction, and related with this, a change in the edapho-hydric conditions, that could in time lead to a change in the composition of these forests. Human well-being has been affected negatively as the current situation is of high dependence on timber prices and reduced food autonomy.
Type of regime shift
- Marine & coastal
- Tropical Forests
- Timber production
Spatial scale of the case study
- Local/landscape (e.g. lake, catchment, community)
Continent or Ocean
- South America
- Chocó biogeographic region
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