, Volume 12, Issue 1, pp 35-53
Date: 25 May 2011

Regional integration and local change: road paving, community connectivity, and social–ecological resilience in a tri-national frontier, southwestern Amazonia

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Initiatives for global economic integration increasingly prioritize new infrastructure in relatively remote regions. Such regions have relatively intact ecosystems and provide valuable ecosystem services, which has stimulated debates over the wisdom of new infrastructure. Most prior research on infrastructure impacts highlights economic benefits, ecological damage, or social conflicts. We suggest a more integrative approach to regional integration by appropriating the concepts of connectivity from transport geography and social–ecological resilience from systems ecology. Connectivity offers a means of observing the degree of integration between locations, and social–ecological resilience provides a framework to simultaneously consider multiple consequences of regional integration. Together, they offer a spatial analysis of resilience that considers multiple dimensions of infrastructure impacts. Our study case is the southwestern Amazon, a highly biodiverse region which is experiencing integration via paving of the Inter-Oceanic Highway. Specifically, we focus on the “MAP” region, a tri-national frontier where Bolivia, Brazil, and Peru meet and which differs in the extent of highway paving. We draw on a tri-national survey of more than 100 resource-dependent rural communities across the MAP frontier and employ indicators for multiple dimensions of connectivity and social–ecological resilience. We pursue a comparative analysis among regions and subregions with differing degrees of community connectivity to markets in order to evaluate their social–ecological resilience. The findings indicate that connectivity and resilience have a multifaceted relationship, such that greater community connectivity corresponds to greater resilience in some respects but not others. We conclude by noting how our findings integrate those from heretofore largely disparate literatures on infrastructure. The integration of transport geography with resilience thought thus stands to advance the study of infrastructure impacts.