Dynamic Equifinality: The Case of South-Central Chile’s Evolving Forest Landscape


Geography and Anthropology

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This paper explores a modified conceptual model of equifinality and applies it to an evolving landscape in south-central Chile. The equifinality model assumes that for a given open system, phenomena can take different paths and reach the same end state. We argue that landscapes with differing land cover can change over time for various reasons (political, social, or economical), and yet evolve into a landscape with the same land cover. Using a series of remotely sensed images spanning from 1976 to 2007, we look at land cover in three comunas in south-central Chile, each with a different dominant land cover in the early 1970s. We analyze land cover classes over time and find that each comuna is steadily increasing in forest cover through the establishment of plantations. Although we argue that policies of the 1970s and 1990s play a strong role in the establishment of plantations, we note that other factors (social and economic) are lending to the plantation land use. With regard to the equifinal behavior of land use in this region, we find the equifinality model (as based on the traditional principle of equifinality) limited, as plantations are not a stochastic end state, but a cyclical process of growth, harvest and replanting. As plantation land use is represented by an ever changing land cover, we introduce the term dynamic equifinality to explain how this land cover change via human-induced pathways does not reach an end state, per se, but rather a dynamic end process.