Collective action and individual adaptation in natural resource management under the threat of ecosystem change: Insights from economic experiments

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Titel: Collective action and individual adaptation in natural resource management under the threat of ecosystem change: Insights from economic experiments
Autor(en): Hembach-Stunden, Katharina
ORCID des Autors:
Erstgutachter: Prof. Dr. Stefanie Engel
Zweitgutachter: Prof. Dr. Achim Schlüter
Zusammenfassung: Scientific evidence shows that climate change increases the frequency of climate extremes across the globe. These climate extremes exogenously pressure local resource users by causing destruction of natural resources, often affecting ecosystems that already have deteriorated due to overexploitation in the past. The future state of natural resources and entire ecosystems is thereby determined by both exogenous (climate) and endogenous (management by resource users) dynamics. The combination of both the uncertain changing environmental conditions and manmade overexploitation will make the sustainable management of natural resources by local resource users more challenging in the future. Depending on the underlying ecosystem dynamics, the combination of overexploitation and climate extremes may cause sudden abrupt shifts in natural resources if a resource is driven to its critical threshold (tipping point). These shifts are termed regime shifts. In its most drastic form, a regime shift results in the collapse of the resource with severe economic consequences. Ecological and meteorological warning and forecast systems could potentially warn of approaching regime shifts and climate extremes, thereby motivating the resource users for more sustainable resource management and investments in protective adaptation. Self-governance of natural resources highly depends on collective action. Resource users need to cooperate and coordinate their resource extraction strategies to keep a resource at a sustainable level of regrowth and to prevent it reaching a critical threshold. Policy makers and ecologists must decide when and how to inform local resource users about the potential threat of crossing critical thresholds. However, critical thresholds are often unknown and ecological early warning signals only provide uncertain threshold knowledge. Knowing if the communication of early imprecise threshold information bears a risk to hamper collective action is thus critical. In addition, in some cases, individual adaptation behaviour determines how far an individual experiences economic losses due to climate extremes. In these cases, the issue is not about collective action, but rather about individuals’ responsiveness to early warnings. To further understand human behaviour in the light of the aforementioned ecological dynamics, three economic experiments were designed and implemented. The results of these experiments are presented in the three academic papers of this thesis (Chapter 2 to 4): The first paper, titled “The interaction of shock experience and threshold knowledge in natural resource management”, was co-authored by myself with Aneeque Javaid and Stefanie Engel (Chapter 2). This paper addresses the lack of evidence in the literature on the impact of the interaction of exogenously and endogenously driven change in ecosystems on collective action. To analyse this interaction and find the main driver of change in groups’ resource extraction strategies, a novel, (quasi-) continuous-time common-pool resource (CPR) experiment was designed and implemented in the laboratory. The CPR experiment incorporates both dynamics: an unexpected exogenous shock that causes resource scarcity and a critical threshold, at which the resource collapses. The impact of initial resource scarcity on groups’ extraction behaviour is compared to the impact of shock driven scarcity. Furthermore, the effect of shock experience on extraction strategies in the future is assessed. The results indicate that while group members cooperate less when experiencing an exogenous shock to their resource, the knowledge of a critical threshold still motivates successful coordination. However, cooperation amongst group members and efficiency of resource extraction is more sensitive to the resource scarcity itself, than the experience of an exogenous shock. There is no significant effect of shock experience on group’s future extraction strategies. The second paper, “Are imprecise early warnings a potential benefit or threat to sustainable resource management?”, was co-authored by myself with Tobias Vorlaufer and Stefanie Engel (Chapter 3). This paper asks whether an imprecise early threshold warning alters cooperation amongst resource users and analyses if there is a danger of deteriorating individuals’ responses to the certain threshold knowledge by giving an imprecise early warning. On the one hand, imprecise early warnings could raise awareness about the resource’s dynamics and thus, encourage collective action. On the other hand, imprecise early warnings could be taken as a sign of an inevitable upcoming loss of the resource. Thus, resource users increase their individual extraction efforts and collective action fails. To assess the effect of imprecise early warnings on collective action, two additional treatments for the CPR experiment were designed and implemented. The two treatments differ in the degree of uncertainty about the threshold level in the beginning. While groups in both treatments know of the critical threshold, only one treatment receives an imprecise early threshold warning in form of a known threshold range. The experimental results show no effect of such an imprecise early warning on cooperation and coordination amongst group members in comparison to groups who only know of the mere threshold existence. The third paper, “False and missed alarms in seasonal forecasts affect individual adaptation choices”, was again co-authored by myself with Tobias Vorlaufer and Stefanie Engel (Chapter 4). It analyses the effect of varying forecast accuracy on individuals’ responsiveness to climate forecast systems. Climate extremes can result in economic losses if individuals are not adequately prepared. The effect of climate forecast systems however, likely depends on their accuracy and individuals’ responsiveness to inaccurate climate warnings. An online experiment was designed and implemented to assess individuals’ responsiveness to climate forecasts that issue potentially inaccurate warnings about approaching climate extremes leading to the experience of false and/or missed alarms. The results of this experiment indicate that experiencing false alarms more frequently leads to a decrease in individuals’ adaptation investments in response to future warnings (so called “cry-wolf-effect”), but has no impact on individuals’ responsiveness to the forecast if no warning is issued. In contrast, experiencing missed alarms more frequently leads to an increase in individuals’ responsiveness and investment in adaptation regardless whether or not a warning is issued by future forecasts. Individuals who experienced missed alarms more frequently react more sensitive on warnings per se than individuals without this experience. If they receive a warning their adaptation behaviour is less affected by the forecasted probability of the extreme climate event. This thesis extends the understanding of human behaviour in light of changing ecosystem dynamics and provides more information regarding how natural resource management can be improved by using forecast and ecological prediction systems. The improved understanding of interactions between human behaviour and ecosystem change contributes to the exchange between policy makers, social scientists, ecologists and resource users.
Schlagworte: collective action; common-pool resources; tipping points; regime shift; experimental economics; decisions under uncertainty; environmental uncertainty; resource user behaviour; behavioural economics; extreme weather events; forecast design; early warning signals
Erscheinungsdatum: 24-Feb-2023
Publikationstyp: Dissertation oder Habilitation [doctoralThesis]
Enthalten in den Sammlungen:FB09 - E-Dissertationen

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