Theoretical Ecology

, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 341–354 | Cite as

The dynamical implications of human behaviour on a social-ecological harvesting model

  • Carling BiegEmail author
  • Kevin S. McCann
  • John M. Fryxell


The dynamic aspects of human harvesting behaviour are often overlooked in resource management, such that models often neglect the complexities of dynamic human effort. Some researchers have recognized this, and a recent push has been made to understand how human behaviour and ecological systems interact through dynamic social-ecological systems. Here, we use a recent example of a social-ecological dynamical systems model to investigate the relationship between harvesting behaviour and the dynamics and stability of a harvested resource, and search for general rules in how relatively simple human behaviours can either stabilize or destabilize resource dynamics and yield. Our results suggest that weak to moderate behavioural and effort responses tend to stabilize dynamics by decreasing return times to equilibria or reducing the magnitude of cycles; however, relatively strong human impacts can readily lead to human-driven cycles, chaos, long transients and alternate states. Importantly, we further show that human-driven cycles are characteristically different from typical resource-driven cycles and, therefore, may be differentiated in real ecosystems. Given the potentially dramatic implications of harvesting on resource dynamics, it becomes critical to better understand how human behaviour determines harvesting effort through dynamic social-ecological systems.


Dynamical systems Social-ecological models Human harvesting behaviour Human interaction strength 



This research was funded by Belmont Freshwater Security and NSERC Discovery grants to KSM. This paper is also a contribution to the Food from Thought research program supported by the Canada First Research Excellence Fund. We would like to thank three anonymous reviewers whose comments and suggestions helped to improve the manuscript.

Supplementary material

12080_2017_334_MOESM1_ESM.docx (960 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 959 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Integrative BiologyUniversity of GuelphGuelphCanada

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