Navigating complexity through knowledge coproduction: Mainstreaming ecosystem services into disaster risk reduction

Author(s): Reyers, B., J.L. Nel, P.J. O’Farrell, N. Sitas, D.C. Nel
In: Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 112: 7362–7368
Year: 2015
Type: Journal / article
Theme affiliation: Landscapes
Full reference: Reyers, B., J.L. Nel, P.J. O’Farrell, N. Sitas, D.C. Nel. 2015. Navigating complexity through knowledge coproduction: Mainstreaming ecosystem services into disaster risk reduction. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, USA 112: 7362–7368.

Summary

Achieving the policy and practice shifts needed to secure ecosystem services is hampered by the inherent complexities of ecosystem services and their management. Methods for the participatory production and exchange of knowledge offer an avenue to navigate this complexity together with the beneficiaries and managers of ecosystem services. We develop and apply a knowledge coproduction approach based on social–ecological systems research and assess its utility in generating shared knowledge and action for ecosystem services.

The approach was piloted in South Africa across four case studies aimed at reducing the risk of disasters associated with floods, wildfires, storm waves, and droughts. Different configurations of stakeholders (knowledge brokers, assessment teams, implementers, and bridging agents) were involved in collaboratively designing each study, generating and exchanging knowledge, and planning for implementation. The approach proved useful in the development of shared knowledge on the sizable contribution of ecosystem services to disaster risk reduction.

This knowledge was used by stakeholders to design and implement several actions to enhance ecosystem services, including new investments in ecosystem restoration, institutional changes in the private and public sector, and innovative partnerships of science, practice, and policy. By bringing together multiple disciplines, sectors, and stakeholders to jointly produce the knowledge needed to understand and manage a complex system, knowledge coproduction approaches offer an effective avenue for the improved integration of ecosystem services into decision making.

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