An Index to Measure Rural Diversity in the Light of Rural Resilience and Rural Development Debate

Open access


Diversity has been extensively studied in ecological systems and its relationship with resilience has been well recognized. In social and ecological systems, in fact, diversity is considered key to determining resilience where resilience is defined as system’s capacity to learn and adapt in the face of internal or external perturbations. However, although human and ecological systems are dynamic, interacting and interdependent, little attention has been given to social systems diversity and its implications. The interest in diversity and resilience of social-ecological systems is increasingly growing, particularly in the rural contexts, due to its possible effects on social and economic development and livelihoods. In this paper we define an analytical tool, the Rural Diversity Index (RDI), to assess the role of natural, economic and social diversity in determining alternative rural socio-ecological developmental patterns. The application of the RDI in pilot areas of Southern Italy showed that, in specific socio-ecological systems, higher natural-socio-economic diversity leads to higher degree of rural development, as measured through standard socio-economic indicators.

[1] Abson, D. J., Fraser, E. D. G. & Benton, T. G. (2013). Landscape diversity and the resilience of agricultural returns: a portfolio analysis of land use patterns and economic returns from lowland agriculture. Agriculture & Food Security 2(2), 1-15. Doi: 10.1186/2048-7010-2-2.

[2] Ambrosio-Albalá, M., Bastiaensen, J. (2010). The New Territorial Paradigm of Rural Development: Theoretical Foundations From Systems and Institutional Theories.Discussion Paper 2010/02, IOB Antwerp University.

[3] Anderies, J. M. (2006). Robustness, institutions, and large-scale change in socialecological systems: the Hohokam of the Phoenix Basin. Journal of Institutional Economics, 2(2), 133-155. Doi: 10.1017/S1744137406000312.

[4] Anderies, J. M., Walker, B. H. & Kinzig, A. P. (2006). Fifteen weddings and a funeral: case studies and resilience-based management. Ecology and Society, 11(1), 21.

[5] Anderies, J. M., Rodriguez, A. A., Janssen, M. A. & Cifdaloz, O. (2007). Panaceas, uncertainty, and the robust control framework in sustainability science. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 104 (39), 15194-15199.

[6] Apeldoorn, D. F. v.d, Kok, K., Sonnevald, M. P. W. & Veldkamp, T. A. (2011). Panarchy Rules: Rethinking Resilience of Agro-systems, Evidence from Dutch Diary-Farming.Ecology and Society 16 (1): 39.

[7] Biggs, R., Schluter, M., Biggs, D., Bohensky, E. L., BurnSilver, S., Cundill, G., Dakos, V., Daw, T. M., Evans, L. S., Kotschy, K., Leitch, A. M., Meek, C., Quinlan, A., Raudsepp- Hearne, C., Robards, M. D., Schoon, M. L., Schultz, L. & West, P. C. (2012). Toward Principles for Enhancing the Resilience of Ecosystem Services. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 37, 421-448. Doi: 10.1146/annurev-environ-051211-123836.

[8] Bryden, J. M., Efstratoglou, S., Ferenczi, T., Knickel, K., Johnson, T., Refsgaard, K., Thomson, K. J., eds. (2011). Towards Sustainable Rural Regions in Europe, Exploring Inter-Relationships Between Rural Policies, Farming, Environment, Demographics, Regional Economies and Quality of Life Using System Dynamics. London: Routledge.

[9] Cabell, J. F. & Oelofse, M. (2012). An indicator framework for assessing agroecosystem resilience. Ecology and Society 17(1): 18. Doi: 10.5751/ES-04666-170118.

[10] Chapin III, F. S., Walker, B. H., Hobbs, R. J., Hooper, D. U., Lawton, J. H., Sala, O. E. & Tilman, D. (1997). Biotic control over the functioning of ecosystems. Science, 277(5325), 500-504. Doi: 10.1126/science.277.5325.500.

[11] Chapin, F. S., Kofinas G. P., Folke, C., eds. (2009). Principles of Ecosystem Stewardship: Resilience-Based Natural Resources Management in a Changing World. New York: Springer.

[12] Chavas J. P. & Di Falco S. (2012). On the productive value of crop biodiversity: evidence from the highlands of Ethiopia. Land Economics 88(1), 58-74.

[13] David, P. & Rothwell, G. (1996). Standardization, Diversity and Learning: strategies for the co evolution of technology and industrial capacity. International Journal of Industrial Organization, 14(2), 181-201. Doi: 10.1016/0167-7187(95)00475-0.

[14] Di Falco, S., Chavas, J. P. (2008). Rainfall shocks, resilience, and the effects of crop biodiversity on agroecosystem productivity. Land Economics 84(1):83-96.

[15] Ellis, F. (1999). Rural Livelihood diversity in developing countries: evidence and policy implications. Natural Resource Perspectives, 40. Retrieved from

[16] Elmqvist, T., Folke, C., Nystrom, M., Peterson, G. D., Bengtsson, J., Walker, B. H. & Norberg, J. (2003). Response diversity and ecosystem resilience. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 1, 488-494. Doi: 10.1890/1540-9295(2003)001[0488:RDECAR]2.0.CO;2).

[17] Folke, C. (2006). Resilience: The emergence of a perspective for social-ecological systems analyses. Global Environmental Change 16(3), 253-267.Doi: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2006.04.002.

[18] Folke, C., Carpenter, S., Elmqvist T., Gunderson, L., Holling, C. S. & Walker, B. (2002).Resilience and Sustainable Development: Building Adaptive Capacity in a World of Transformations. AMBIO: A Journal of the Human Environment 31(5), 437-440.Doi: 10.1579/0044-7447-31.5.437.

[19] Fonte, M. (2006). Slow Food’s Presidia: what do small producers do with big retailers Research in Rural Sociology and Development, 12, 203-240. Doi: 10.1016/S1057-1922(06)12009-0.

[20] Fraser, E. D. G., Mabee, W. & Slaymaker, O. (2003). Mutual dependence, mutual vulnerability: the reflexive relation between society and the environment. Global Environmental Change, 13(2), 137-144. Doi: 10.1016/S0959-3780(03)00022-0.

[21] Garmestani, A. S., Allen, C. R., Mittelstaedt, J. D., Stow, C. A. & Ward, W. A. (2006). Firm size diversity, functional richness, and resilience. Environmental and Development Economics, 11(4), 533-551. Doi: 10 .1017/S1355770X06003081.

[22] Heijman, W., Hagelaar, G. & Heide, M. v.d. (2007). Rural resilience as a new development concept. EAAE seminar Serbian Association of Agricultural Economists Novi Sad, Serbia.Last accessed 5 January 2012. Retrieved from: an_Wim.pdf.

[23] Hill, M. (1973). Diversity and Evenness: a Unifying Notation and its Consequences.Ecology, 54(2), 427-432. Doi: 10.2307/1934352.

[24] Horlings, L. G., Marsden, T. K. (2011). Towards the real green revolution? Exploring the conceptual dimensions of a new ecological modernisation of agriculture that could 'feed the world'. Global Environmental Change, 21(2), 441-452.Doi: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2011.01.004.

[25] Ives, A. R. & Carpenter, S. R. (2007). Stability and diversity in ecosystems. Science, 317(5834), 58-62. Doi: 10.1126/science.1133258.

[26] Janssen, M. A. & Anderies, J. M. (2007). Robustness-tradeoffs for social-ecological systems. International Journal of the Commons, 1(1), 43-66.

[27] Janssen, M. A., Anderies, J. M. & Ostrom, E. (2007). Robustness of social-ecological systems to spatial and temporal disturbances regimes. Society and Natural Resources, 20(4), 307-322. Doi: 10.1080/08941920601161320.

[28] Sachs, J. D. & Warner, A. M. (1995). Natural Resource Abundance and Economic Growth.NBER Working Papers 5398. Cambridge (MA): National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.

[29] Junge, K. (1994). Diversity of ideas about diversity measurement. Scandinavian Journal of Psychology, 35(1), 16-26. Doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9450.1994.tb00929.x.

[30] Kempener, R., Kaufman, P., Stagl, S., Stirling, A. & Perez, K. (2009). Teresa - Diversity and Resilience of Rural Areas [Research report]. Brighton: University of Sussex.

[31] Kinzig, A. P., Pacala, S. (2002). Successional biodiversity and eco system functioning (pp. 175-212). In Kinzig, A. P., Pacala, S. & Tilman, D., eds., Functional consequences of biodiversity: empirical progress and theoretical extensions. Princeton (NJ): Princeton University Press.

[32] Kirman, A. (1992). Variety: the coexistence of techniques. Revue d'Économie Industrielle, 59(1), 62-74.

[33] Lietaer, B., Ulanowicz, R. E., Goerner, S. J. & McLaren N. (2010). Is our monetary structure a systemic cause for financial instability? Evidence and remedies from nature.Journal of Futures Studies, 14(3), 89-108.

[34] Lin, B. B. (2011). Resilience in Agriculture through Crop Diversification: Adaptive Management for Environmental Change. BioScience, 61(3), 183-193.Doi: 10.1525/bio.2011.61.3.4.

[35] Low, B., Ostrom, E., Simon, C. & Wilson, J. (2003). Redundancy and diversity: Do they influence optimal management? (pp. 83-114). In: Berkes, F., Colding, J. & Folke, C., eds., Navigating social-ecological systems: building resilience for complexity and change.Cambridge University Press.

[36] Marsden, T. (2009). Mobilities, Vulnerabilities and Sustainabilities: Exploring Pathways from Denial to Sustainable Rural Development. Sociologia Ruralis, 49(2), 113-131.Doi: 10.1111/j.1467-9523.2009.00479.x.

[37] McCann, K. (2000). The diversity-stability debate. Nature 405(6783), 228-233.Doi: 10.1038/35012234.

[38] McCann, K. (2007). Protecting Bio-structure. Nature 446(7131), 29. Doi: 10.1038/446029.

[39] McIntosh, R. (1967). An Index of Diversity and the Relation of Certain Concepts to Diversity. Ecology, 48(3), 392-404. Doi: 10.2307/1932674.

[40] Metcalfe, J. (1992). Variety, Structure and Change: an evolutionary perspective on the competitive process. Revue d'Économie Industrielle, 59(1), 46-61.

[41] Metcalfe, J. & Gibbons, M. (1989). Technology, Variety and Organization: a Systematic Perspective on the Competitive Process. Research on Technological Innovation, Management and Policy, 4,153-193.

[42] Naeem, S., Bunker, D. E., Hector, A., Loreau, M. & Perrings, C., eds. (2009). Biodiversity, Ecosystem Functioning, and Human Wellbeing: An Ecological and Economic Perspective.Oxford Univ. Press.

[43] Nelson, M. C., Hegmon, M., Kulow, S. R., Peeples, M. A., Kintigh, K. W. & Kinzig, A. P. (2011). Resisting Diversity: a Long-Term Archaeological Study. Ecology and Society, 16(1): 25.

[44] Ostrom, E. (2005). Understanding Institutional Diversity. Princeton: Princeton University Press, New Jersey, USA.

[45] Quaranta, G. & Salvia, R. (2000). Peasant agriculture and part-time farming: use of resources and landscape effects in a rural area of Southern Italy. Medit, 11(1), 41-45.

[46] Reidsma, P. & Ewert F. (2008). Regional farm diversity can reduce vulnerability of food production to climate change. Ecology and Society 13(1): 38.URL:

[47] Schouten, M., Heide, M. v.d. & Heijman, W. (2009). Resilience of Social-Ecological Systems in European Rural Areas: Theory and Prospects. EAAE Seminar “The Role of Knowledge, Innovation and Human Capital in Multifunctional Agriculture and Territorial Rural Development”, Belgrade December 2009. Last accessed 5 January 2012

[48] Simpson, E. H. (1949). Measurement of Diversity. Nature, 163, 688.Doi: 10.1038/163688a0.

[49] Stirling, A. (1999). On the economics and analysis of diversity. Mimeo, SPRU Electronic Working Paper, n. 28. Brighton: University of Sussex. 50] Stirling, A. (2007). A general frame work for analyzing diversity in science, technology and society. Journal of the Royal Society Interface 4(15), 707-719, doi: 10.1098/rsif.2007.0213.

[51] Ulanowicz, R. E., Goerner, S. J., Lietaer, B. & Gomez, R. (2009). Quantifying sustainability: resilience, efficiency and the return of information theory. Ecological Complexity 6(1), 27-36. Doi: 10.1016/j.ecocom.2008.10.005.

[52] Van Der Ploeg, J. D., Renting, H., Brunori, G., Knickel, K., Mannion, J., Marsden, T., De Roest, K., Sevilla-Guzmán, E. & Ventura, F. (2000). Rural Development: From Practices and Policies towards Theory. Sociologia Ruralis 40(4), 391-408. Doi: 10.1111/1467-9523.00156.

[53] Wagner, J. E. (2002). Regional Economic Diversity: Action, Concept, or State of Confusion. Journal of Regional Analysis and Policy, 30 (2), 1-22.

[54] Wagner, J. E. & Deller, S. C. (1998). Measuring the Effects of Economic Diversity on Growth and Stability. Land Economics, 74(4), 541-556.

[55] Walker, B. H., Gunderson, L. H., Kinzig, A. P., Folke, C., Carpenter, S. & Schultz, L. (2006). A handful of heuristics and some propositions for understanding resilience in social-ecological systems. Ecology and Society, 11(1): 13. Last accessed 5 January 2012

[56] Walker, B. H., Kinzig, A. P. & Langridge, J. (1999). Plant attribute diversity, resilience, and ecosystem function: the nature and significance of dominant and minor species.Ecosystems, 2(2), 95-113. Doi: 10.1007/s100219900062.

[57] Waring, T. M. 2011. Ethnic forces in collective action: diversity, dominance, and irrigation in Tamil Nadu. Ecology and Society 16(4): 1.

[58] Wilson, G. A. (2012). Community resilience and environmental transitions. London: Earthscan.

European Countryside

The Journal of Mendel University in Brno

Journal Information

CiteScore 2017: 0.78

SCImago Journal Rank (SJR) 2017: 0.265
Source Normalized Impact per Paper (SNIP) 2017: 0.607


All Time Past Year Past 30 Days
Abstract Views 0 0 0
Full Text Views 150 150 38
PDF Downloads 60 60 12