This theme analyses the social, institutional, economic and ecological foundations of multilevel governance that are successful in building social-ecological resilience
Many scholars emphasize the need for new flexible, inclusive and multi-level forms of governance that can deal with the complexity of social-ecological systems (SES), and their associated services.
Adaptive governance approaches must be able to not only coordinate relevant actors at multiple scales, but also achieve meaningful collaborations and collective action before essential ecosystem services are depleted or critical thresholds are transcended.
Furthermore, adaptive governance approaches require a system of continuous learning for building knowledge and effective management practices to interpret and respond to ecological feedbacks. Learning is therefore essential for stakeholders to develop their ability to deal effectively with new situations and to prepare for change and surprise.
We integrate insights from a range of disciplines ranging from systems ecology, geography, sociology, social network analysis, complexity theory, and organizational studies, to political science.
Our members focus on a multitude of empirical cases, ranging from coral reef ecosystems in Australia, urban ecosystems in Stockholm, biosphere reserves in South Africa, forest ecosystems in India and Madagascar, to global technical innovations for infectious disease governance and local climate change adaptation processes in Sweden.
Research news | 2016-10-07
Better representation of human behaviour needed in models of social-ecological systems
Research news | 2016-10-05
Global examples of a thriving sustainable social-ecological future published
Research news | 2016-08-25
New study provides a guide for social-ecological researchers to better include policy science in their work
Research news | 2016-08-03
How to develop and manage networks to solve complex social issues, in particular how to develop holistic approaches to environmental management
Research news | 2016-07-21
New understanding of power shows important relations between humans and nature
Research news | 2016-07-13
New study explores new ways of describing the connection between people and planet
2016 - Journal / article
Humanity has emerged as a major force in the operation of the biosphere. The focus is shifting from the environment as externality to the biosphere as precondition for social justice, economic development, and sustainability. In this article, we exemplify the intertwined nature of social-ecological systems and emphasize that they operate within, and as embedded parts of the biosphere and as such coevolve with and depend on it. We regard social-ecological systems as complex adaptive systems and use a social-ecological resilience approach as a lens to address and understand their dynamics. We raise the challenge of stewardship of development in concert with the biosphere for people in diverse contexts and places as critical for long-term sustainability and dignity in human relations. Biosphere stewardship is essential, in the globalized world of interactions with the Earth system, to sustain and enhance our life-supporting environment for human well-being and future human development on Earth, hence, the need to reconnect development to the biosphere foundation and the need for a biosphere-based sustainability science.
2016 - Journal / article
Resilience has emerged as a prominent paradigm for interpreting and shaping human–environment connections in the context of global environmental change. Resilience emphasizes dynamic spatial and temporal change in social–ecological systems where humans are inextricably interwoven with the environment. While influential, resilience thinking has been critiqued for an under-theorized framing of socio-cultural dynamics. In this paper, we examine how the resilience concepts of planetary boundaries and reconnecting to the biosphere frame human–environment connection in terms of mental representations and biophysical realities. We argue that focusing solely on mental reconnection limits further integration between the social and the ecological, thus countering a foundational commitment in resilience thinking to social–ecological interconnectedness. To address this susceptibility we use Tim Ingold’s ‘dwelling perspective’ to outline an embodied form of human–environment (re)connection. Through dwelling, connections are not solely produced in the mind, but through the ongoing interactivity of mind, body and environment through time. Using this perspective, we position the biosphere as an assemblage that is constantly in the making through the active cohabitation of humans and nonhumans. To illustrate insights that may emerge from this perspective we bring an embodied connection to earth stewardship, given its growing popularity for forging local to global sustainability transformations.
2016 - Journal / article
Norway is committed to the two-fold policy objective of preserving biodiversity and maintaining traditional local livelihoods. This creates management dilemmas with the potential to undermine the legitimacy of both national and international policies. In this article, we take a social-ecological perspective to highlight how these two policy objectives are linked and interdependent and, therefore, subjected to complex dynamics between institutions and ecosystems. We use a case study in northern Norway to discuss trade-offs in the implementation of the two-fold conservation objectives. Based on interviews, a focus group meeting with 16 reindeer herders and stakeholders and participant observations during a grazing committee meeting, we identified that ecological dynamics between carnivores, sheep and grassland patterns are central to this trade-off. We demonstrate how current governance instruments in carnivore management do not address the spatial dynamics of carnivores leading to a perceived conflict between environmentalist groups and farmers around questions of carnivore protection and sheep killings by carnivores. Fragmentation in the multi-layered governance system prevents ongoing dialogue among various actors, thereby enhancing antagonisms while reducing the likelihood of the emergence and implementation of adaptation measures and practices.
2016 - Journal / article
Although ecosystem services are increasingly recognized as benefits people obtain from nature, we still have a poor understanding of how they actually enhance multidimensional human well-being, and how well-being is affected by ecosystem change. We develop a concept of “ecosystem service elasticity” (ES elasticity) that describes the sensitivity of human well-being to changes in ecosystems. ES Elasticity is a result of complex social and ecological dynamics and is context dependent, individually variable, and likely to demonstrate nonlinear dynamics such as thresholds and hysteresis. We present a conceptual framework that unpacks the chain of causality from ecosystem stocks through flows, goods, value, and shares to contribute to the well-being of different people. This framework builds on previous conceptualizations, but places multidimensional well-being of different people as the final element. This ultimately disaggregated approach emphasizes how different people access benefits and how benefits match their needs or aspirations. Applying this framework to case studies of individual coastal ecosystem services in East Africa illustrates a wide range of social and ecological factors that can affect ES elasticity. For example, food web and habitat dynamics affect the sensitivity of different fisheries ecosystem services to ecological change. Meanwhile high cultural significance, or lack of alternatives enhance ES elasticity, while social mechanisms that prevent access can reduce elasticity. Mapping out how chains are interlinked illustrates how different types of value and the well-being of different people are linked to each other and to common ecological stocks. We suggest that examining chains for individual ecosystem services can suggest potential interventions aimed at poverty alleviation and sustainable ecosystems while mapping out of interlinkages between chains can help to identify possible ecosystem service trade-offs and winners and losers. We discuss conceptual and practical challenges of applying such a framework and conclude on its utility as a heuristic for structuring interdisciplinary analysis of ecosystem services and human well-being.
This project aims to identify determinants of successful co-management processes embracing the guiding principles of ecosystem-based management Read more here