Karina Benessaiah

Ph.D. Geography
TEMPE Campus

Student Information

Graduate Student
Liberal Arts & Sciences


Present-  PhD. Candidate, School of Geographical Sciences and Urban Planning, ASU, Tempe, AZ. Dissertation :" Social-Ecologies of Crisis: Assessing the back-to-land movement in Greece". 

2008  Master of Science, Geography, McGill University, QC. Thesis: Mangroves, shrimp aquaculture and coastal livelihoods in the Estero Real, Gulf of Fonseca, Nicaragua

2004 Bachelor of Science, Environment (Renewable Resources Management) and Political Science (minor), McGill University, QC

Research Interests

Back to land movements; economic crisis; land use change; wetlands; coastal areas; agriculture; sustainable livelihoods; development; vulnerability; resilience; adaptation; climate change; sustainability; trade-offs; ecosystem services


Chan KMA, P. Balvanera, K. Benessaiah, M. Chapman, S. Diaz, E. Gómez-Baggethun, RK. Gould, N. Hannahs, K. Jax, SC. Klain, G. Luck, B. Martín- López, B. Muraca, B. Norton, K. Ott, U. Pascual, T. Satterfield, M. Tadaki, J. Taggart, NJ. Turner. 2016. “Why Protect Nature? Rethinking Values and the Environment”. PNAS Vol. 113 (6): 1462-1465.

Turner VK., K. Benessaiah, SD Warren, D Iwaniec. 2015. Essential tensions in interdisciplinary scholarship: navigating challenges in affect, epistemologies, and structure in environment-society research centers. Higher Education  1-17. 

Benessaiah K. and R. Sengupta. 2014. Shrimp aquaculture, livelihoods and coastal lagoons in the Estero Real, Nicaragua: the need to integrate ecosystem-based approaches to social-ecological research. Environmental Management 54 (2): 162-179.

Benessaiah, K., & Sayles, J. (2014). Drug Trafficking's Effects on Coastal Ecosystems. Science343, 1431-1431.

Raymond, C., G. Singh, K. Benessaiah, N. Turner, H. Nelson, K. Chan. 2013. Engaging multiple disciplines in ecosystem services research and assessment: a reply to Orenstein. Bioscience 63 (12): 913-914.   

Raymond, C., G.G. Singh, K. Benessaiah, J. R. Bernhardt, J. Levine, H. Nelson, N.J. Turner, B. Norton, J. Tam and K. MA. Chan. 2013. "Ecosystem Services and Beyond". Bioscience 63 (7): 536-546.   

Benessaiah, K. 2012. "Carbon and livelihoods in Post-Kyoto: Assessing voluntary carbon markets". Ecological Economics 77 :1-6.   

Benessaiah, K. 2012. Disaster culture: knowledge and uncertainty in the wake of human and environment catastrophe. Book review, Human Ecology 40 (3): 483.   

Eakin, H.; K. Benessaiah; J. Barrera; G. Cruz-Bello, and H. Morales.2011. “Livelihoods and Landscapes at the Threshold of Change: Disaster and Resilience in a Chiapas Coffee Community”. Regional Environmental Change(): 1-14.   

Raudsepp-Hearne, C; Peterson, G. D. ; Tengo, M; Bennett, E.M.; Holland, T.; Benessaiah, K.;  Macdonald, G.K.; Pfeifer, L. 2010 “Untangling the environmentalist’s paradox: why is human well-being increasing as ecosystem services degrade?”. Bioscience, Vol.60, issue 8, Sept. 2010, 576-589.   

Benessaiah, K. 2010. Marine Aquaculture. Encyclopedia of Geography. Wharf, B (ed). Sage. Spring 2010.  

Oestreicher, J. S., K. Benessaiah, M. C. Ruiz-Jaen, S. Sloan, K. Turner, J. Pelletier, B. Guay, K. E. Clark, D. G. Roche and M. Meiners (2009). "Avoiding deforestation in Panamanian protected areas: An analysis of protection effectiveness and implications for reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation." Global Environmental Change 19(2): 279-291.  

Benessaiah, K. 2007. “Mangroves, shrimp farming and coastal livelihoods: land use/cover change in the Gulf of Fonseca, Nicaragua”. Conference proceedings, Congress for Humanities CIDA-CFHSS Graduate Competition: Saskatoon, Canada

Research Activity

A global financial crisis has been affecting most of the world's economies since 2008, constituting a major driver of social-ecological changes at different scales with ramifications that have yet to be fully explored and analyzed. In Greece, the economic crisis and associated structural adjustments imposed by the European Union and the International Monetary Fund have contributed to widespread unemployment affecting a third of the population, a decrease of 15% of market-based household consumption and high risks of poverty. Using Greece as a case-study, this research assesses the social-ecological changes induced by the rapid economic collapse in Greece. Specifically I examine how the economic crisis affects the ways people relate to and manage land as a safety net, focusing particularly on the back to the land trend whereby people newly engage in food production, weaving new ties with rural areas in order to cope and adapt to the ongoing economic recession. I also examine the emergence of new networks and institutions that facilitate this return to the ‘land. Thus my research aims to understand how people- and new “farmers” in particular- adapt to the economic crisis and its intersection with other forms of crises (environmental, climatic, and social). I am particularly interested in the pathways that enable natural capital- and land in particular- to become a safety net in times of crisis, highlighting the different formal and informal institutional arrangements that facilitate access (or lack thereof) to key ecosystem services for households seeking to adapt to widespread economic, social and ecological changes. This research contributes to a wider social-ecological scholarship which seeks to understand how people and the landscapes they inhabit adapt to rapid change under conditions of multiple exposures, focusing on the role played by land and associated ecosystem services for the resilience of these households. This research also seek to understand which new pathways and transformations are forged in response to these adaptations. 


Summer 2016
Course Number Course Title
GPH 381 Geography of Natural Resources
Summer 2015
Course Number Course Title
GPH 381 Geography of Natural Resources
Summer 2013
Course Number Course Title
GPH 381 Geography of Natural Resources


Trudeau Scholar 2010-2013  http://www.trudeaufoundation.ca/program/scholarships/current/2010/karina...

Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada (SSHRC) fellow 2009-2013