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Pathways of rural change: an integrated assessment of metabolic patterns in emerging ruralities


While rural transformations are nothing new in human history, current processes of rural change occur under multiple forces at an unprecedented pace, involving profound and unexpected changes in land use and users, and rapid transformations in the metabolic patterns of rural systems. The present special section aims to shed light on current drivers and pathways of rural change by analyzing, under a common conceptual and theoretical framework, examples of new ruralities that are emerging as responses across different world regions. Within this context, this introduction presents: (1) common research questions of the six presented cases of rural change; (2) the general theoretical and methodological framework of integrated assessment of societal metabolism adopted to analyze rural systems and (3) the main contributions and conclusions that could be drawn from six context-specific case studies from Asia, Latin America and Europe.

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We are very grateful to Mario Giampietro and Jesús Ramos-Martín for their valuable comments. This article and the work of this special section are the result of a project initiated long ago, inspired by the lectures and discussions carried out within the rural system assessment group (http://www.ruralsystems.org/), and received thoughtful feedbacks from other members. We would especially mention Talía Waldron, Giuseppina Siciliano, Jaime Paneque and Oswaldo Viteri Salazar. We would also thank all the co-authors of the special section. The first author of this article gratefully appreciates the economic funding from Alianza 4U to contribute to the writing of this manuscript.

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Correspondence to F. Ravera.

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Ravera, F., Scheidel, A., dell’Angelo, J. et al. Pathways of rural change: an integrated assessment of metabolic patterns in emerging ruralities. Environ Dev Sustain 16, 811–820 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10668-014-9534-9

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  • Bio-economy
  • Complexity
  • Integrated assessment
  • Rural systems
  • Societal metabolism