Landscape Ecology

, Volume 26, Issue 5, pp 737–749 | Cite as

Regime shifts in a socio-ecological model of farmland abandonment

  • Joana Figueiredo
  • Henrique M. Pereira
Research Article


We developed a mathematical model with two-way linked socio-ecological dynamics to study farmland abandonment and to understand the regimes shifts of this socio-ecological system. The model considers that migration is a collective behavior socio-economically driven and that the ecosystem is dynamic. The model identifies equilibria that vary from mass migration, farmland abandonment, and forest regeneration, to no migration and forest eradication; partial migration and/or coexistence of farmland and forest also constitute possible equilibria. Overall, the model reflects farmland abandonment processes observed in the field and illustrates the importance of the complex interlinked mechanisms between the social and ecological systems determining farmland abandonment, that are not evident when approached independently. The model dynamics show that the hysteresis on the social dynamics renders regimes shifts difficult to reverse, and that this difficulty is accentuated when considering the ecological system dynamic. Similar models could be applied to other socio-ecological systems to help their management.


Collective behavior Deforestation Forest regeneration Human decision Hysteresis Linked social-ecological system Migration Threshold Rural exodus Utility 



We would like to thank S. Connolly, J. Anto, T. Pinto-Correia, and I. Loupa Ramos, for their comments and Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia for financial support to the project ABAFOBIO—Farmland Abandonment, Fire and Biodiversity (PTDC/AMB/73901/2006).

Supplementary material

10980_2011_9605_MOESM1_ESM.doc (26 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOC 26 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Centre for Enviromental Biology, Faculty of SciencesUniversity of LisbonLisbonPortugal
  2. 2.ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef StudiesJames Cook UniversityTownsvilleAustralia

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