Robustness, institutions, and large-scale change in social-ecological systems: the Hohokam of the Phoenix Basin 1
Societies frequently generate public infrastructure and institutional arrangements in order to mediate short-term environmental fluctuations. However, the social and ecological consequences of activities dealing with short-term disturbances may increase the vulnerability of the system to infrequent events or to long-term change in patterns of short-term variability. Exploring this possibility requires the study of long-term, transformational change. The archaeological record provides many examples of long-term change, such as the Hohokam who occupied the Phoenix Basin for over a thousand years and developed a complex irrigation society. In the eleventh and fourteenth centuries, the Hohokam society experienced reductions in complexity and scale possibly associated with regional climatic events. We apply a framework designed to explore robustness in coupled social-ecological systems to the Hohokam Cultural Sequence. Based on this analysis, a stylized formal model is developed to explore the possibility that the success of the Hohokam irrigation system and associated social structure may have increased their vulnerability to rare climactic shocks.
c1 Contact details: School of Human Evolution and Social Change and International Institute for Sustainability, Arizona State University. E-mail: email@example.com. Phone/FAX: (480)965-8712/(480)965-8087.
1 I would like to thank Marco Janssen, David Abbott, and three anonymous reviewers for helpful comments and advice on earlier drafts of this manuscript.