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A social–ecological network analysis of Argentinean Andes transhumant pastoralism

Easdale, Marcos Horacio, Aguiar, Martín Roberto, Paz, Raúl
Regional environmental change 2016 v.16 no.8 pp. 2243-2252
decision making, ecosystems, herds, highlands, infrastructure, issues and policy, landscape management, lowlands, migratory behavior, mountains, people, plateaus, rain, snow, social adjustment, summer, transhumance, winter, Andes region, Argentina
Many mountainous regions worldwide are characterized by harsh environments, scarce infrastructure, and extreme contrasts between mountains and neighboring plateaus and plains. Transhumance is a social adaptation to handle geomorphological heterogeneity such as lowlands and highlands, and to cope with environmental variability (seasonal and regional rainfall and snowfall). We studied the regional transhumant system with a network approach in the Andes of North Patagonia, Argentina. We measured the connectivity promoted by the seasonal movements of herds and people (relationships) among different ecosystems (nodes), defined as winter and summer lands. We identified 238 networks. The highest frequencies corresponded to small network structures (dyads and triads), suggesting that landscape management is highly decentralized. Network complexity was positively related to ecological richness and diversity of connected nodes. However, most networks were dependent upon a central node, suggesting vulnerable situations regarding disturbances affecting such key nodes. The identification of social–ecological traps of this mobile system provided novel insights for policy decision making, which otherwise would not be evidenced with traditional approaches. Management proposals and policy making should consider the spatial and temporal scales of transhumant pastoralism, in order to avoid problems derived from fixation logics, scale mismatches, and disconnection.