Spatial dynamics versus social dynamics: understanding trade-offs in ecological and socioeconomic systems

Nidhi Nagabhatla, Colin Finlayson, Sonali S. Sellamuttu

Research output: Book chapter/Published conference paperChapter


Ecological Sustainability and Human Well being' As we discuss modelling, valuation and evaluation of the environment and the economy to balance the trade, the passable understanding of science and the art of environmental conflicts, policy, ecological accounting and social metabolism is essential. Talking across disciplines and investigating holistic and multidisciplinary approaches is a solution to address varied issues at multiple scales. Incorporation of geospatial tools (remote sensing and geographic information system (GIS)) have also opened doors to understand the dynamics in natural and modified systems. This dynamics combined with the understanding of social pattern and metabolism help to understand tradeoffs and figure out the growth and sustainability ratio. In the present paper we will discuss about the case study in the tropical coastal wetland system. The debate on the future of wetlands has often been polarized between antagonists seeking either development or conservation related goals. This is partly because the values of wetlands have often been mis-stated, disregarded or are unknown. Further, the patterns of change in wetlands can be complex and difficult to decipher, especially when heavily influenced by human interventions. Effective inventory, mapping and monitoring of wetlands along with assessment of the ecosystem services they provide, can improve our understanding of the ecological and socio-economic hierarchies that effect wetlands. They can also help identify the inter-linkages between the various components that comprise the wetland and that support the livelihood and well-being of many people. The Muthurajawela-Negombo coastal wetland complex in Sri Lanka is located alongside a rapidly developing urban area and has long been used for agriculture and, in more recent times, for localised aquaculture and other developmental processes, making it an extremely vulnerable ecosystem. However, the wetland is beingrapidly degraded by inadequately planned development activities and growing anthropogenic pressure. Along with local partners we are undertaking a multiple-scale inventory and assessment of the extent of biophysical change and investigating some of the socio-economic drivers of change. This includes the identification of 'indicators of stress' in the wetland and a geospatial analysis of the extent of ecological change and future threats. It is being done within a multidisciplinary environment incorporating urban and coastal zone planning framework, issues on ecological sustainability and the socio-economic aspects to understand the trade offs in ecological-economical domains. There were several important facts that were highlighted by our study. Firstly, that there are significant changes in land cover/use patterns that can be observed in the Muthurajawela marsh-Negombo lagoon wetland complex between 1992 and 2002. For example, the conversion of the lagoon into a shallow water body with sediments and the fragmentation and conversion of the marshland into built up areas and settlements are two of the most prominent changes that have occurred over this time period reflecting a total misbalance in conservation and development scale. In conjunction with the technical analyses 2 a capacity building module is being developed to assist partners and stakeholders to promote the wise use of wetland resources.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationEnvironmental Growth
Subtitle of host publicationA Global Perspective
Place of PublicationNew Delhi, India.
PublisherMacmillan Publishers
Number of pages16
ISBN (Print)9780230636835
Publication statusPublished - 2007

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    Nagabhatla, N., Finlayson, C., & Sellamuttu, S. S. (2007). Spatial dynamics versus social dynamics: understanding trade-offs in ecological and socioeconomic systems. In Environmental Growth: A Global Perspective (pp. 16-31). Macmillan Publishers.