Preprint Article Version 1 Preserved in Portico This version is not peer-reviewed

Boom Bust Economy and Social-ecological System Relationship

Version 1 : Received: 6 September 2020 / Approved: 17 September 2020 / Online: 17 September 2020 (03:29:07 CEST)

How to cite: Liu, X.; Ungar, M.; McRuer, J.; Blais, D.; Theron, L.; Schnurr, M. Boom Bust Economy and Social-ecological System Relationship. Preprints 2020, 2020090368. Liu, X.; Ungar, M.; McRuer, J.; Blais, D.; Theron, L.; Schnurr, M. Boom Bust Economy and Social-ecological System Relationship. Preprints 2020, 2020090368.


This paper reports on the changing dynamics of a small town’s social-ecological system (SES) concerning oil and gas industry boom-bust economic cycles and both the vulnerability and resilience of the town over the past 30 years. With the goal to understand how resource-based single industry impact social-ecological systems, we developed indicators of human and environmental well-being and assessed them. Seven indicators include labor force distribution, education, oil price, household income, water quality, air quality, and land cover land use. Over this period, Drayton Valley, Canada quadrupled in size, with more than 20% of the population working in the oil and gas sector. Median income rose to 42% above the national average despite the population lagging national benchmarks for educational attainment. There have also been dramatic fluctuations in levels of fluoride, phosphorus, and other chemicals in water quality samples, implying a correlation with fossil fuel extractive activities over this period. Land cover land use change analysis shows a decreased area of water bodies, wetland, and forests, and increased built capital and agricultural land. While economic boom cycles have led to cash inflows, an exclusive focus on the benefits of the oil and gas industry may leave those dependent on the industry vulnerable to social and environmental risk factors during bust cycles that are beyond their control in the everchanging global oil economy. This phenomenon which has been referred to as the “resource curse” suggests the need to anticipate cyclical (or more sustained) periods of low levels of oil and gas production. These results suggest that single boom-bust economies impact every aspect of social-ecological systems. Therefore, a sustainable development plan that comprehensively considers not only economic growth, but also diversification, environment protection, and strategic land use planning is indispensable to ensure the long-term development of communities that depend upon extractive industries.


Boom bust economy; Resilience; Single industry; Social ecological system; Sustainable development


Social Sciences, Geography, Planning and Development

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