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From Vulnerability to Sustainability: Vulnerability and Sustainability Development in the Context Climatic and Institutional Changes in Rural China

a PSC Research Project [ARCHIVE DISPLAY]

Investigators:   Daniel G. Brown, Qing Tian

Climate change is affecting many natural and human systems. Risks associated with climate change are higher in the less developed world and in resource-dependent sectors. The objective of this research is to study vulnerability and sustainable development in the context of climatic and institutional changes in rural areas of the less developed world. It links NASA Earth Science research with policy and management studies in land use, economic development and climatic risk reduction. The study site is the Poyang Lake Region (PLR), a poor rural area in China that has been subjected to flooding from the largest freshwater lake in China and is experiencing rapid and dramatic social-economic-political changes.

Assisted by methods and tools from the science of complexity, this interdisciplinary research employs a new framework for studying coupled human-environment systems, uses multiple data sources (satellite images, GIS-based data, census data, historic records, social surveys, and interview field notes), and a diversity of methods (spatial analysis, agent-based modeling, system dynamics approach, statistical analysis, and qualitative analysis) to study vulnerability of the rural populations and sustainable development in PLR in a linked manner at multiple space and time scales.

The systematic and comprehensive understanding of vulnerability and sustainable development acquired through this research will (a) provide a scientific basis for policy making and intervention to mitigate vulnerability and develop in a sustainable way, (b) generate insights into how farmer households can better respond to the uncertainty of flood dynamics and social-economic-political changes, and (c) shed light on how to achieve increased well-being of the system. In addition to these practical results, this research is also expected to make some theoretical advances in the study of coupled human-environment systems.

Funding Period: 08/13/2010 to 12/31/2011

Country of Focus: China

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