CR 62:149-161 (2015)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/cr01264

Resilience of traditional rice-dominated agricultural communities to precipitation variability in the North China Plain

Dingyang Zhou1,*, Midori Aoyagi2, Tomoo Okayasu3, Hirotaka Mastuda4, Yuji Hara5, Toshiya Okuro3, Kazuhiko Takeuchi4

1College of Resources Science and Technology, Beijing Normal University, No.19 Xin Jie Kou Wai Street, Beijing 100875, PR China
2Social and Environmental Systems Division, National Institute for Environmental Studies, 16-2 Onogawa, Tsukuba, Ibaraki 305-8506, Japan
3Graduate School of Agricultural and Life Sciences, The University of Tokyo, 1-1-1 Yayoi, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-8657, Japan
4Transdisciplinary Initiative for Global Sustainability, Integrated Research System for Sustainability Science, The University of Tokyo, 7-3-1, Hongo, Bunkyo-ku, Tokyo 113-8654, Japan
5Department of Environmental Systems, Wakayama University, 930 Sakaedani, Wakayama City, Wakayama 640-8510, Japan
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: This study used the concept of resilience as a framework to explore the response of a traditional rice-dominated agricultural society to past climatic variability in the Hai River Basin, North China Plain. In agriculture-based communities, the performance of resilience refers to the functions of cropping and water systems and the flexibility to respond to an uncertain climate. With limited water inflow, the responses to the recent historical precipitation variability in this case study demonstrated that the local people were adjusting to both interannual variability and extreme drought through their collective and individual actions. In the short term, the local people coped by adjusting the planting area and individually switching from planting paddy rice to less water-intensive crops in order to adapt to a severe, continuing drought. However, because of poor management of the water system by community leaders and the lack of an adequate budget for the collective action of rice cropping, the shift in land use to rice cropping as an adaptation to the recent increased precipitation was not usually reversible. In the long term, the agricultural production of most villages became less resilient to current precipitation variability, despite the intention of most villagers to change the current cropping system to improve their low household staple food self-sufficiency. This study indicated that over the long term the social resilience and adaptive capacity of agricultural communities and their associated stakeholders must be built on and enhanced to better cope with the constraints and opportunities of current climate variability. New institutional arrangements, including collective irrigation regimes and community leadership capabilities, are required to build social resilience and to enhance adaptive capacity for future uncertainties.


KEY WORDS: Precipitation variability · Agricultural production · Adaptation · Resilience · Institution · North China Plain


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Cite this article as: Zhou D, Aoyagi M, Okayasu T, Mastuda H, Hara Y, Okuro T, Takeuchi K (2015) Resilience of traditional rice-dominated agricultural communities to precipitation variability in the North China Plain. Clim Res 62:149-161. https://doi.org/10.3354/cr01264

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