EGU General Assembly 2020
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

A transdisciplinary approach to mass-movements mitigation strategies in volcanic habitats: an approach from complex systems

Natalia Pardo1, Miguel Cabrera1, Catalina Gonzalez1, Monica Espinosa1, Ricardo Camacho1, Nancy Palacios1, Susana Salazar2, Leonardo Parra1, and Sonia Archila1
Natalia Pardo et al.
  • 1Universidad de los Andes, Bogota, Colombia (
  • 2Universidad Nacional de Colombia, Medellin, Colombia

Volcanic habitats host a dynamic environment for sudden and long-lasting relationships between nature and culture, becoming an archetypal case for the study of resilient communities. In these habitats, the study of the occurring phenomena is often addressed independently and in disciplinary isolation, focusing on the uncertainty and contingency of geohazards, the abrupt and recurrent resetting of biophysical conditions due to natural disturbances, or the intrinsic repercussions on the anthropogenic memory. Under this perspective, mass-movements within a volcanic habitat can be addressed as a complex system built over various generations of interacting and interdependent human societies, ecological systems, climate and geological processes. Understanding this multivariable and multi-scalar coexistence becomes central in how mass-movements are perceived. In this work, we propose a transdisciplinary approach for the formulation and design of alternative strategies in the mitigation of mass-movements hazards, by responsibly collaborating between geoscientists, social scientists, and local actors.
Mass-movement mitigation strategies rarely take into account the cultural relationship of the inhabitants with their territories and the complexity of the local knowledge and capabilities of the communities to resolve their condition [2]. This limits the effectiveness in the response capacity and resilience of communities and ecosystems to extreme events [2]. Through this research, we aim at finding ways to democratize knowledge, and change academic practices within a geoethical context, recognizing and valuing the local perspectives. In this work, we study an area within the Doña Juana-Cascabel volcanic-complex, located in SW Colombia, and focus on the processes in the vicinity to the Humadal stream and neighbouring communities. This stream is recognized as the main preoccupation of the inhabitants with the recent occurrence of mass-movements in its basin. We address this issue through a team consisting of key local social actors and researchers in anthropology, archaeology, biology, design, engineering, geology, pedagogy, and pedology. We collaborate within a Historical Ecology framework, aiming to the empowerment of sociological resilience-based decision making [3]. This work started with the site recognition, mapping the geological, biological, and social settings. In parallel, we listened and valued the local knowledge about physical geography, ecosystems, and mass-movements in an active volcanic habitat, and merge it with the scientific knowledge. Moreover, this local knowledge enlighted key aspects on the interaction between the inhabitants and the State’s agencies and governmental processes, which underlay the dynamics of any reliable policy and sustainibile process. 
In this particular site, we identified the organizational capacity to work on reforestation, road maintenance, and weaving as fundamental capabilities for connecting with the design, potential implementation, and sustainability of a set of potential mitigation strategies. With this case study, we invite the multiple actors involved in disaster risk reduction to find common languages beyond disciplinary boundiaries aiming to horizontalize knowledge with the local actors in risk. Through this excercise, we avoid the victimization of the communities, reduce power relationships, and empower resilience.

[1]Martin, Martin & Kent, (2009). Journal of environmental management, 91(2), 489-498.
[2]Gaillard, (2008). Journal of volcanology and geothermal research, 172(3-4), 315-328.
[3]Brierley, (2010).  Area, 42(1), 76-85.

How to cite: Pardo, N., Cabrera, M., Gonzalez, C., Espinosa, M., Camacho, R., Palacios, N., Salazar, S., Parra, L., and Archila, S.: A transdisciplinary approach to mass-movements mitigation strategies in volcanic habitats: an approach from complex systems, EGU General Assembly 2020, Online, 4–8 May 2020, EGU2020-20460,, 2020


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