Disturbance, Complexity, Scale: New Approaches to the Study of Human-Environment Interactions

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New approaches to human-environment interactions are beginning to move beyond a narrow focus on individuals and simple (patch-level) predatory or competitive interactions. These approaches link nonequilibrium theory from community and landscape ecology with theories of individual decision making from behavioral ecology to explore new ways of approaching complex issues of diachronic change in behavior, subsistence, and social institutions. I provide an overview of two such approaches, one to understand long-term hunting sustainability among mixed forager-horticulturalists in the wet tropics and the other to understand how foragers act as ecosystem engineers in a dry perennial grassland in Australia. I conclude by describing the implications of new approaches that incorporate anthropogenic "intermediate" disturbance (an emergent property of human-environment interaction) as a force shaping environments through time and space, and in so doing patterning the sustainability of subsistence, ways of sharing, ownership norms, and even structures of gendered production.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)241-257
Number of pages17
JournalAnnual Review of Anthropology
Issue number1
StatePublished - Oct 21 2015

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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