The purpose is to elucidate how critical pathways function in a fruit export region at the desert margin in Chile. The region was investigated at the system level as an open land system with managed fruit plantations in a geographically complex valley. Data collection procedures included total field surveys, semi-structured interviews, and library investigations. The main result is that no single variable could explain the pathways. Pathways were found to be explained by the functioning of the regional dynamic system. Pathways were found to vary in type, cause, relation and space-time. Global change changed pathways. Pathways resulted from a combination of global value chains, the adoption of innovations, past climate change, and regional conditions at different scales. Main pathways of change were upgrade and downgrade of the fruit export region and irrigation systems, whereas the breaking of barriers and the creation of possibilities were related to land tenure and water rights. Resulting pathways were physical, biological, societal and cultural. A clear differentiation of regional pathways was identified between plantation owners and smallholder farmers. Founder effects at different time scales (formation of the Andes to the colonization) constrained the pathways. Historical tendencies (land and water reforms, land and water markets and others) influenced but did not determine pathways because of the increasing openness to teleconnections. Emergent properties were identified in some areas and not in others. The probable future is expected to be increased separation of intraregional pathways and a more imbalanced region. The conclusion is that openness is the main property responsible for critical pathways of change in the region.
path dependence complex historical tendencies Global Land Project