Crop Specialization, Exchange and Robustness in a Semi-arid Environment

Jacob Freeman, John Anderies, Andrea Torvinen, Ben Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


We compare the robustness of food supplies to annual variation in rainfall within two different agricultural systems: a generalist system with one type of agent who cultivates both maize and agave, and a specialist system composed of two types of agents who cultivate either maize or agave and are able to exchange. When mean rainfall is relatively high and less variable or relatively low and more variable, food supplies in the specialist system are more robust than in the generalist system. However, at intermediate levels of mean rainfall and variability, food supplies in the specialist system are less robust than those in the generalist system. Our analysis suggests that conflicts of interest and their associated costs constrain the development of specialization in some environments. When considering the robustness of social-ecological systems, it is important to consider "for whom a coupled social and ecological system is robust?"

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)297-310
Number of pages14
JournalHuman Ecology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2014


  • Crop diversity
  • Risk
  • Robustness
  • Social-ecological system
  • Specialization and exchange

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Anthropology
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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