Human societies depend on the resources ecosystems provide. Particularly since the last century, human activities have transformed the relationship between nature and society at a global scale. We study this coevolutionary relationship by utilizing a stylized model of regional resource use and preference formation on an adaptive social network. The latter process is based on two social key dynamics beyond economic paradigms: boundedly rational imitation of resource use preferences and homophily in the formation of social network ties. The private and logistically growing resources are harvested either with a sustainable (small) or non-sustainable (large) effort.
We show that these social processes can have a profound influence on the environmental state, such as determining whether the private renewable resources collapse from overuse or not. Additionally, we demonstrate that heterogeneously distributed regional resource capacities shift the critical social parameters (social-ecological tipping points) where this resource extraction system collapses.
We make these points to argue that, in more advanced coevolutionary models of the planetary social-ecological system, such socio-cultural phenomena as well as regional resource heterogeneities should receive attention in addition to the processes represented in established Earth system and integrated assessment models.
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