A coupled human and landscape conceptual model of risk and resilience in Swiss Alpine communities

Sci Total Environ. 2020 Aug 15;730:138322. doi: 10.1016/j.scitotenv.2020.138322. Epub 2020 Apr 6.


Disasters induced by natural hazards or extreme events consist of interacting human and natural components. While progress has been made to mitigate and adapt to natural hazards, much of the existing research lacks interdisciplinary approaches that equally consider both natural and social processes. More importantly, this lack of integration between approaches remains a major challenge in developing disaster risk management plans for communities. In this study, we made a first attempt to develop a conceptual model of a coupled human-landscape system in Swiss Alpine communities. The conceptual model contains a system dynamics (e.g. interaction, feedbacks) component to reproduce community level, socio-economic developments and shocks that include economic crises leading to unemployment, depopulation and diminished community revenue. Additionally, the conceptual model contains climate, hydrology, and geomorphic components that are sources of natural hazards such as floods and debris flows. Feedbacks between the socio-economic and biophysical systems permit adaptation to flood and debris flow risks by implementing spatially explicit mitigation options including flood defenses and land cover changes. Here we justify the components, scales, and feedbacks present in the conceptual model and provide guidance on how to operationalize the conceptual model to assess risk and community resilience as well as determine which shocks overcome the buffering capacity of Swiss Alpine communities.

Keywords: And feedbacks; Community resilience; Coupled human-landscape model; Hazard; Risk; System dynamics.