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Cooperating with the future through natural resources restoration

Abstract

One key intervention to mitigate biodiversity loss and climate change is natural habitat restoration. However, although restoration provides benefits to both the current generation and future generations, future generations typically reap most of the benefits, and the costs that are paid by the current generation are burdens that were inflicted upon them by previous generations. Despite the importance of restoration, its role in intergenerational common-pool resource games has largely gone unexplored. Here, we devise a novel intergenerational common-pool resource game with two phases—extraction and restoration—to investigate how participants' decisions are influenced by the previous generation and how restoration is influenced by emotions. All groups overexploited the resource pool during the extraction phase, but individuals extracted proportionally more resource when they had unsustainable previous generations. Having unsustainable previous generations also lowered success rate of rescuing overexploited resources through restoration. Individuals belonging to the first generation experienced more guilt and contributed more to restoration. In general, guilt and anger were positively related to the individual’s contribution to restoration. These results suggest that unsustainable behaviors in the current generation may have cascade effects that will reinforce environmental degradation in future generations.

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Data were uploaded to figshare at https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.13116818.v1.

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Acknowledgements

We thank Yuchen Zhang for experiment assistance. We acknowledge research funds from the National Parks Board and the Ministry of National Development, Singapore.

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LRC, CC, TPLN, and CLYT designed experiments. CC, TPLN, and CLYT performed experiments. CC analysed the data. CC, NPK, and LRC. wrote and all authors revised the manuscript.

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Correspondence to Chia-chen Chang or L. Roman Carrasco.

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Handled by Federico Demaria, Institut de Ciència i Tecnologia Ambientals (ICTA - UAB), Spain.

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Chang, Cc., Kristensen, N.P., Nghiem, T.P.L. et al. Cooperating with the future through natural resources restoration. Sustain Sci 16, 1285–1293 (2021). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-021-00945-8

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Keywords

  • Experimental game
  • Intergenerational reciprocity
  • Intergenerational equity
  • Social heuristics hypothesis
  • Cognitive reflection