Impacts of land use and land use changes on the resilience of beekeeping in Uruguay

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We use a social-ecological systems framework and interview data from key informants to analyze the threshold dynamics underpinning the resilience of the local beekeeping sector, amidst changes in land use (management) and land use changes (conversions) that result from the expansions of the soy and eucalypt frontiers in Uruguay. Our results indicate that while agriculture began displacing grasslands that originally provided high yields of honey, afforestation now compensates those losses through the flowerings of Eucalyptus grandis. By extending the flowering season from six to eight months, beekeepers' dependency on tree plantations has increased. However, forestry enterprises are now shifting to plant more productive species that do not flower similarly, anticipating a threshold crossover to which the beekeepers may be unable to adapt. In conclusion, resilience of this environmentally sensitive livelihood has been suppressed primarily by land use changes that have introduced new costs and challenges into honey production. However, threshold dynamics that appear as multifaceted challenges faced by beekeepers occur also elsewhere in the system. Certain outcomes of the threshold dynamics similar to feedback loops in social-ecological systems were identified, including considerations of out-migration and change in occupation, of which ultimate impacts remain unclear. Most beekeepers still cope with the remaining viability, but it appears that the current resilience level does not allow for further harmful impacts. This case example of coupled social and ecological interactions through a livelihood lens gives rise to future research in evolving new dimensions to govern social-ecological systems in Uruguay and beyond.

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