Variable: Environmental Cycles

Not all cycles are socially constructed: environmental cycles are natural patterns that can significantly influence the human ecosystem (Bormann and Likens 1979; Turner et al. 1990). Environmental cycles include seasons, drought periods, El Nino patterns, biogeochemical cycles, short-term successional stages, and long-term climatological change. Drought cycles in the western United States, for example, impact natural resources such as wildlife and forests, the capital needs for dams, reservoirs, and other storage devices, agricultural institutions, litigation over water rights, and many other components of the human ecosystem. The cycles can be measured by duration (such as length of growing season) or occurrence (the proportion of years in a decade with low precipitation). Changes in environmental cycles, such as the end of a drought or the movement of the seasons, can alter ecosystem and social system responses, often significantly.

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