Contemporary Effects of Natural Resource Limitation on Growing Human Populations: Socioeconomic Subsystem Evolution within Ecosystem Boundaries

Author: ORCID icon
Fitzsimmons, Ian, Environmental Sciences - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Macko, Stephen, Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia
Shugart, Herman, Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia
Smith, Thomas, Environmental Sciences, University of Virginia
Dukes, Frank, School of Architecture, University of Virginia

This investigation examines the socioeconomic effects of national ecosystem limitation, in order to (1) assess the incidence of national-scale ecosystem limitation of socioeconomic populations; and (2) assess relative effectiveness of possible policy interventions to alleviate the deleterious socioeconomic effects of limitation. It monitors ecological-socioeconomic material flows in pursuit of the former goal, applying methodology developed for measuring Human Appropriation of Net Primary Productivity (HANPP), and assesses national scale assistance policy choices for the latter, applying systems dynamics simulation modeling.
HANPP analysis of eight landlocked countries with agrarian economies indicates that ecosystem resource availability per capita is constant in two of the eight countries studied (Chad and Laos) and decreasing in four (Central African Republic (CAR), Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Rwanda, and Uganda, and increasing in Mongolia and Bolivia. Evidence of limitation effects is seen in Chad and the CAR, whereas mechanisms are in place in DRC, Laos, Rwanda, and Uganda that alleviate potential limitation pressure.
The system dynamics simulation of consumption-production interaction in the two countries coming under limitation pressure (CAR and Chad) assesses limitation effects on the relationship between ecological and socioeconomic systems in qualitative terms. The expected trajectory is towards intensifying scarcity of essential resources, especially food, causing increasing competition within the population. A fulsome response should address short term limitation effects promptly with direct aid, while simultaneously supplying technical expertise and inputs to improve domestic agricultural efficiency, and long-term technical assistance aiming at self-sufficiency based on combined domestic production and international trade.
This research develops a methodological basis for anticipating national ecosystem limitation of socioeconomic welfare, thereby potentially improving international capacity to deliver timely, policy interventions, aimed at forestalling potentially disruptive levels of limitation. It presents environmental resource management as a high-priority, long-term component of sustained social welfare, both in national and international contexts. In addition to the specific applications noted, the approach outlined here has the potential to assist in detecting national sensitivity to socioeconomic limitation, on the one hand, and, on the other, developing preventative, multi-dimensional policy responses. With reasonable modifications, it could also help assess socioeconomic vulnerability. As the more countries become increasingly dependent on importation of NPP-derived goods (Fader et al. 2013), assessment of country risk in these circumstances becomes more valuable. The effects now on international food supplies caused by the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine illustrate this point vividly.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Human Appropriation of Net Primary Productivity (HANPP), System Dynamics, Socioeconomic, Sustainability
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