The Long-term Vulnerability and Transformation Project (LTVTP) uses the deep time of the archaeological record to develop general understandings of factors that contribute to resilience and vulnerability, to stability and transformation, and to the characteristics of various types of change, including transformations, that are costly and/or painful to the people and environments involved. It draws on the resilience perspective, as well as on recent literature on robustness-vulnerability tradeoffs. A recently funded initiative of the LTVPT project builds upon this research by examining how social and ecological diversity interact to influence the resilience of societies facing major changes in their social or environmental circumstances. The goal is to discover configurations of diversity in ecological landscapes and in forms of social organization that make systems more or less able to cope with significant environmental or social changes without undergoing an unpleasant transformation.

Empirically, the LTVTP focuses on five archaeologically known cases that together span the period from AD 450 to 1600 in the southwestern US and northern Mexico. The cases are investigated individually and comparatively, and theories about general processes affecting vulnerability and transformation are investigated by working iteratively between archaeological analysis, mathematical modeling, and institutional analysis. Thus the project involves collaboration among experts in archaeology, mathematical modeling, ecology, and institutional analysis.

One of the basic tenets of the resilience framework, and of concepts such as robustness and vulnerability, is that there are no absolutes. One must always ask "resilience of what with respect to what?" Factors that contribute to robustness in one realm may increase vulnerabilities in other realms (e.g., an irrigation system may make a society robust to drought but more vulnerable to disease or floods). And factors that contribute to resilience or robustness or vulnerability in a given situation may have a very different effect in other situations (e.g., diversification may work well only when a population is below a certain level). There are always tradeoffs, and much of the project’s research is designed to develop an understanding of those tradeoffs.





Sonoran Desert, southern Arizona

Northwest Mexico

Colorado Plateau, northwest New Mexico

  LTVTP is hosted by Arizona State University and supported by a grant from the National Science Foundation's Biocomplexity Program (#BCS-0508001) and Dynamic Coupled Natural and Human Systems Program (#CNH-1113991). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.  
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