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Open Property Regimes as Complex Adaptive Systems

In 2008 I started an interdisciplinary study of complex social-ecological systems that is funded by the National Geographic Society and a Faculty Early Career Development (CAREER) Award from the Cultural Anthropology and the Geography and Regional Science Programs at the National Science Foundation. This interdisciplinary study of a complex social-ecological system has contributed to a better understanding of management of common-pool resources in situations of open access. Specifically, the study examined how mobile pastoralists in the Logone floodplain in the Far North of Cameroon coordinate their movements to avoid conflict and overgrazing in a land tenure system that is commonly described as open access, a situation generally regarded as leading to a tragedy of the commons.

The hypothesis is that this management system is best understood as a case of complex adaptive system, in which individual decision-making, coordination of movements among pastoralists, and participation in an information sharing network result in the emergence of a complex adaptive system in which access to and use of grazing resources is managed. We have evaluated this hypothesis in an interdisciplinary study of pastoral mobility that integrates spatial and ethnographic analyses as well as multi-agent simulations. Understanding how these emergent systems work is critical for the management of rangelands across West Africa, most of which have some form of open access as well as the management of other common-pool resources, including marine fisheries. Our findings thus far have supported our hypothesis and the project has resulted in several peer-reviewed articles that are listed below.


Moritz, Mark, Elizabeth Gardiner, Mark Hubbe, Amber L. Johnson. 2019. A Comparative Study of Pastoral Property Regimes in Africa offers no support for Economic Defensibility Model, Current Anthropology, 60(5)609-636. doi.org/10.1086/705240.
Moritz, Mark Victoria Garcia, Abigail Buffington, Mouadjamou Ahmadou. 2019. Pastoralist Refugee Crisis tests the Resilience of Open Property Regime in the Logone Floodplain, Cameroon. Land Use Policy. 86(2019):31-42. 10.1016/j.landusepol.2019.04.028.
Moritz, Mark, Roy Behnke, Christine M. Beitl, Rebecca Bliege Bird, Rafael Morais Chiaravalloti, Julia K. Clark, Stefani A. Crabtree, Sean S. Downey, Ian M. Hamilton, Sui Chian Phang, Paul Scholte, James Wilson. 2018. Emergent Sustainability in Open Property Regimes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS). 115(51):12859. 10.1073/pnas.1812028115
Moritz, Mark, 2017. Misreading a pastoral property regime in the Logone Floodplain, Cameroon. Ecology and society 22(1):13. https://doi.org/10.5751/es-09055-220113.

Mark Moritz. 2016. Open Property Regimes. International Journal of the Commons, 10(2):688-708. https://www.thecommonsjournal.org/articles/10.18352/ijc.719/

Mark Moritz, Ian M. Hamilton, Andrew J. Yoak, Paul Scholte, Jeff Cronley, Paul Maddock, Hongyang Pi. 2015.  Simple Movement Rules result in Ideal Free Distribution of Mobile Pastoralists. Ecological Modelling. 305:54-63. 10.1016/j.ecolmodel.2015.03.01

Mark Moritz, Sara Handa, Yu-Jen Chen. 2015. Herding Contracts and Pastoral Mobility in the Far North Region of Cameroon. Human Ecology. 43(1):141-151. 10.1007/s10745-015-9732-6
Mark Moritz, Ian M. Hamilton, Paul Scholte, Yu-Jen Chen. 2014. Ideal Free Distributions of Mobile Pastoralists within Multiple Seasonal Grazing Areas. Rangeland Ecology & Management. 67(6):641-649.PDF.
Mark Moritz, Ian M. Hamilton, Yu-Jen Chen, Paul Scholte. 2014. Mobile pastoralists in the Logone Floodplain distribute themselves in an Ideal Free Distribution. Current Anthropology. 55(1):115-122. PDF.

Mark Moritz, Larissa Bebisse, Albert K. Drent, Saïdou Kari, Arabi Mouhaman, Paul Scholte 2013. Rangeland Governance in an Open System: Protecting Transhumance Corridors in the Far North Province of Cameroon. Pastoralism: Research, Policy and Practice. 3(26). 10.1186/10.1186/2041-7136-3-26.

Mark Moritz, Paul Scholte, Ian M. Hamilton and Saïdou Kari. 2013. Open Access, Open Systems: Pastoral Management of Common-Pool Resources in the Chad Basin. Human Ecology. 41(3):351-365. 10.1007/s10745-012-9550-z and PDF.

Mark Moritz, Zachary Galehouse, Qian Hao, Rebecca Garabed. 2012. Can One Animal Represent an Entire Herd? Modeling Pastoral Mobility using GPS/GIS Technology. Human Ecology. 40(4):623-630. View abstract and PDF.

Mark Moritz and Paul Scholte. 2011. Ethical Predicaments: Advocating security for mobile pastoralists in weak states. Anthropology Today. 27(3):12-17. PDF
Mark Moritz, Kristen K. Ritchey, and Saïdou Kari. 2011. The Social Context of Herding Contracts in the Far North Region of Cameroon. Journal of Modern African Studies 49(2):263-285. PDF

Mark Moritz, Eric Soma, Paul Scholte, Ningchuan Xiao, Todd Juran, Leah Taylor, and Saïdou Kari. 2010. An Integrated Approach to Modeling Grazing Pressure in Pastoral Systems: The Case of the Logone Floodplain (Cameroon). Human Ecology 38(6):775-789. PDF