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Does community resilience decrease social–ecological vulnerability? Adaptation pathways trade-off in the Bolivian Altiplano

Abstract

Worsening climate change impacts and environmental degradation are increasingly supporting policies and plans in framing a linear understanding of resilience building and vulnerability reduction. However, adaptations to different but interacting drivers of change are unclear in the mix of opportunities and threats related to increasing connections, emerging technologies, new patterns of dependency and possible lock-in effects. This paper discusses a more open-ended understanding of the relationship between resilience and vulnerability, highlighting emerging trade-offs among adaptive capacities and exposures to different (and new) threats as they relate to social–ecological sustainability. The transition of the Southern Bolivian Altiplano, from being a remote rural area of subsistence farming to a global leader in quinoa production and exportation, has been taken as a study case. Results from 18 workshops organised within different communities provide insights about a range of trade-offs between community resilience attributes and social–ecological vulnerability induced from land use changes, livestock strategies, communities’ behavioural change and institutions’ emerging policies. The main theoretical advances of the paper relate to the need for critically framing multiple threat exposures and adaptive capacity trade-offs, contributing to arguing the usually positive meaning of resilience, and taking into account “to whom or to what is positive which adaptation” and “which trade-off should be accepted, and why”. Framing adaptive pathways through these questions would serve as a tool for addressing sustainable development goals, while avoiding lock-ins or unsustainable path dependencies.

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Fig. 1

Source: authors’ elaboration from the Instituto Boliviano de Comercio Exterior (IBCE) 2013

Fig. 2

Source: authors from Google Map and GPS data recorded during fieldwork

Fig. 3

Source: authors’ elaboration from the research project workshops gathered data

Fig. 4

Source: authors’ elaboration from the research project workshops gathered data

Notes

  1. 1.

    1 Quintal = 100 kg.

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Acknowledgments

Authors acknowledge Fondazione ACRA-CCS and Carlo Krusich for their support in the research activities. Furthermore, authors would like to acknowledge the work of the editors and two anonymous reviewers which provided critical comments in order to enhance the quality of the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Lorenzo Chelleri.

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Chelleri, L., Minucci, G. & Skrimizea, E. Does community resilience decrease social–ecological vulnerability? Adaptation pathways trade-off in the Bolivian Altiplano. Reg Environ Change 16, 2229–2241 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-016-1046-8

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Keywords

  • Adaptation pathway
  • Maladaptation
  • Vulnerability trade-offs
  • Community resilience
  • Positive adaptation
  • Quinoa
  • Andean communities
  • Regional sustainability
  • Climate change adaptation