Impacts of natural disasters on telecouplings
Telecouplings refer to socioeconomic and environmental interactions among two or more coupled human and natural systems over distances. They are shaped by many factors, including natural disasters. Previous studies on the impacts of natural disasters on telecouplings often relied on post-disaster data only because they lacked pre-disaster data. Although those studies provided useful insights, many conclusions may not be robust without pre- and post-disaster comparisons. By taking advantage of our long-term study on coupled human and natural systems in Wolong Nature Reserve, we evaluated the impacts of natural disasters on telecouplings through using data before and after a devasting natural disaster (Wenchuan Earthquake, magnitude 8.0) in 2008. Located in Wenchuan County of Southwestern China, Wolong is a global biodiversity hotspot and home to the endangered giant panda and nearly 5,000 rural residents. Through qualitative and quantitative analyses, we applied the telecoupling framework to assess changes in telecouplings between Wolong and the outside world before and after the earthquake.
The earthquake had profound influences on telecouplings. The main road connecting Wolong and the outside world is still dysfunctional due to numerous landslides after the earthquake six years ago. The booming tourism and extensive trade of agricultural products before the earthquake have basically stopped. The changes in these and other telecouplings have led to drastic changes in the livelihood and human-nature interactions in Wolong. For example, local people expanded livestock production after the earthquake, causing livestock to invade panda habitat and compete for resources with the panda. This study demonstrates the role of disasters on telecouplings and subsequent impacts on the dynamics of coupled systems. The results have important implications for biodiversity conservation and human development, especially during the reconstruction process after disasters.