In light of the rapid degradation and changes affecting our environment, we face a critical challenge for sustainability: how to generate and maintain long-term cooperation agreements when the benefits of engaging in such initiatives are not well defined. Due to the variability and fragility of semi-desert ecosystems, communities living in these environments are of particular importance to address this general question. Most studies of cooperation in human societies, however, do not consider the dynamical consequences of ecological interactions that are central to defining individual survival strategies, which in turn have the potential to modify human disposition toward reciprocity and collaborative behavior. Moreover, information in the landscape generated by the interaction between vegetation and water dynamics can be used for predicting, and preparing for, desertification processes, including the decisions regarding the use and management of shared resources.
In this project, Dr. Andres Baeza Castro proposes to develop a socio-ecological model that will combine spatially-explicit semi-desert vegetation dynamics driven by rainfall variability, livestock management, and evolutionary cooperation agreements to understand how cooperation is maintained under such environmental variability and desertification processes. The model will also examine the value of incorporating environmental information into the decision process of management strategies and cooperation agreements. The results should provide general insight into the mechanisms needed for maintaining sustainable institutions for governance of self-organized socio-environmental systems under unpredictability.