Common goods such as climate, clean air, or fish stocks, can be threatened by over-exploitation. In the worst case, this may lead to the collapse of the entire resource, a “tragedy of the commons”. As part of the cross-cutting project “Equitable governance of Common Goods” I examine whether such tragedies are inevitable and advance research by including social context in our models. I designed a Common Pool Resource game in which participants can harvest trees for income. Additionally, the forest serves as a protection against floods. I predicted is that this additional feature would cause participants to be more careful, and therefore more cooperative in managing the forest.
With the project team, I conducted experiments with 200 students. Each round, participants had one minute to harvest as many trees as they liked and another minute to view results, including possible floods. A chat box allowed them to communicate. For some games, floods could cause damage if not enough trees were left. Each round, a proportion of the trees regrew.
The danger of floods significantly increased cooperation in maintaining the resource. However, the resulting increase in efficiency was not sufficient to compensate for occasional losses from floods. Hence, the final payoffs where similar with and without floods.
Funding: IIASA Postdoctoral Program
Programs: Evolution and Ecology & Risk and Resilience Programs
Dates: February 2015 – May 2018
Last edited: 17 January 2017
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