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      Illustrating the coupled human–environment system for vulnerability analysis: Three case studies

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          Abstract

          The vulnerability framework of the Research and Assessment Systems for Sustainability Program explicitly recognizes the coupled human-environment system and accounts for interactions in the coupling affecting the system's responses to hazards and its vulnerability. This paper illustrates the usefulness of the vulnerability framework through three case studies: the tropical southern Yucatán, the arid Yaqui Valley of northwest Mexico, and the pan-Arctic. Together, these examples illustrate the role of external forces in reshaping the systems in question and their vulnerability to environmental hazards, as well as the different capacities of stakeholders, based on their access to social and biophysical capital, to respond to the changes and hazards. The framework proves useful in directing attention to the interacting parts of the coupled system and helps identify gaps in information and understanding relevant to reducing vulnerability in the systems as a whole.

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          Most cited references8

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          Thinning of the Arctic sea-ice cover

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            Integration of environmental, agronomic, and economic aspects of fertilizer management

            Nitrogen fertilization is a substantial source of nitrogen-containing trace gases that have both regional and global consequences. In the intensive wheat systems of Mexico, typical fertilization practices lead to extremely high fluxes of nitrous oxide (N2O) and nitric oxide (NO). In experiments, lower rates of nitrogen fertilizer, applied later in the crop cycle, reduced the loss of nitrogen without affecting yield and grain quality. Economic analyses projected this alternative practice to save 12 to 17 percent of after-tax profits. A knowledge-intensive approach to fertilizer management can substitute for higher levels of inputs, saving farmers money and reducing environmental costs.
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              Dynamics of recent climate change in the Arctic.

              The pattern of recent surface warming observed in the Arctic exhibits both polar amplification and a strong relation with trends in the Arctic Oscillation mode of atmospheric circulation. Paleoclimate analyses indicate that Arctic surface temperatures were higher during the 20th century than during the preceding few centuries and that polar amplification is a common feature of the past. Paleoclimate evidence for Holocene variations in the Arctic Oscillation is mixed. Current understanding of physical mechanisms controlling atmospheric dynamics suggests that anthropogenic influences could have forced the recent trend in the Arctic Oscillation, but simulations with global climate models do not agree. In most simulations, the trend in the Arctic Oscillation is much weaker than observed. In addition, the simulated warming tends to be largest in autumn over the Arctic Ocean, whereas observed warming appears to be largest in winter and spring over the continents.
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                Author and article information

                Journal
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                PNAS
                Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences
                0027-8424
                1091-6490
                July 08 2003
                July 08 2003
                July 08 2003
                June 18 2003
                : 100
                : 14
                : 8080-8085
                Article
                10.1073/pnas.1231334100
                166185
                12815106
                27ec8fd2-2eab-4aa4-a337-ac92fb9267da
                © 2003
                History

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