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Emergence of social inequality in the spatial harvesting of renewable public goods

Joshi, J and Brännström, à and Dieckmann, U (2020) Emergence of social inequality in the spatial harvesting of renewable public goods. In: PLoS computational biology, 16 (1).

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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1371/journal.pcbi.1007483


Spatially extended ecological public goods, such as forests, grasslands, and fish stocks, are at risk of being overexploited by selfish consumers-a phenomenon widely recognized as the 'tragedy of the commons.' The interplay of spatial and ecological dimensions introduces new features absent in non-spatial ecological contexts, such as consumer mobility, local information availability, and strategy evolution through social learning in neighborhoods. It is unclear how these features interact to influence the harvesting and dispersal strategies of consumers. To answer these questions, we develop and analyze an individual-based, spatially structured, eco-evolutionary model with explicit resource dynamics. We report the following findings. (1) When harvesting efficiency is low, consumers evolve a sedentary consumption strategy, through which the resource is harvested sustainably, but with harvesting rates far below their maximum sustainable value. (2) As harvesting efficiency increases, consumers adopt a mobile 'consume-and-disperse' strategy, which is sustainable, equitable, and gives maximum sustainable yield. (3) A further increase in harvesting efficiency leads to large-scale overexploitation. (4) If costs of dispersal are significant, increased harvesting efficiency also leads to social inequality between frugal sedentary consumers and overexploitative mobile consumers. Whereas overexploitation can occur without social inequality, social inequality always leads to overexploitation. Thus, we identify four conditions that-while being characteristic of technological progress in modern societies-risk social inequality and overexploitation: high harvesting efficiency, moderately low costs of dispersal, high consumer density, and the tendency of consumers to adopt new strategies rapidly. We also show how access to global information-another feature widespread in modern societies-helps mitigate these risks.

Item Type: Journal Article
Publication: PLoS computational biology
Publisher: NLM (Medline)
Additional Information: Copyright of this article belongs to NLM (Medline)
Keywords: article; consumer; human
Department/Centre: Division of Biological Sciences > Centre for Ecological Sciences
Date Deposited: 02 Mar 2020 10:42
Last Modified: 02 Mar 2020 10:42
URI: http://eprints.iisc.ac.in/id/eprint/64542

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