Firewood Collection in South Africa: Adaptive Behavior in Social-Ecological Models | Land Portal

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September 2018
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© 2018 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article.

Due to the fact that the South Africa’s savanna landscapes are under changing conditions, the previously sustainable firewood collection system in rural areas has become a social-ecological factor in questions about landscape management. While the resilience of savannas in national parks such as Kruger National Park (KNP) in South Africa has been widely acknowledged in ecosystem management, the resilience of woody vegetation outside protected areas has been underappreciated. Collecting wood is the dominant source of energy for rural households, and there is an urgent need for land management to find sustainable solutions for this complex social-ecological system. However, the firewood collection scenario is only one example, and stands for all “human-ecosystem service” interactions under the topic of over-utilization, e.g., fishery, grazing, harvesting. Agent-based modeling combined with goal-oriented action planning (GOAP) can provide fresh insights into the relationship between individual needs of humans and changes in land use. At the same time, this modeling approach includes adaptive behavior under changing conditions. A firewood collection scenario was selected for a proof-of-concept comprising households, collectors, ecosystem services and firewood sites. Our results have shown that, even when it is predictable what a single human agent will do, massive up-scaling is needed in order to understand the whole complexity of social-ecological systems. Under changing conditions, such as climate and an increasing population, fair distribution of natural goods become an important issue.

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Author(s), editor(s), contributor(s): 

Lenfers, A. Ulfia
Weyl, Julius
Clemen, Thomas


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