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Interdisciplinary research for better policy work

- Successful policy work within social-ecological systems can only be achieved with the knowledge we acquire through interdisciplinary research, concludes Science Director Carl Folke in an upcoming article in Science.

The article, entitled Complexity of Coupled Human and Natural Systems, is a synthesis of six interdisciplinary social-ecological studies to demonstrate the approaches used and results found in the studies.

All six, including a study of the Kristiandstads Vattenrike of Sweden, share the fact that they all explicitly address complex interactions and feedback between human and natural systems.

The article finds that integrated such studies of coupled human and natural systems reveal new and complex patterns and processes not evident when studied separately by social or natural scientists.

- Thus, it is critical move beyond the existing approaches for studying coupled systems, to develop more comprehensive portfolios, and to build an international network for interdisciplinary research spanning local, regional, national, and global levels, the article concludes.

Stockholm Resilience Centre unique initiative
Co-author of the article, Professor Stephen Carpenter at University of Wisconsin says this about the issue dealt with in the article:

- Unfortunately, it is still the case that in many countries, including the United States, it is virtually impossible to obtain financial support in order to conduct interdisciplinary research related to social-ecological science. The initiative of MISTRA, the Swedish Foundation for Strategic Environmental Research, to fund the building of Stockholm Resilience Centre as a completely new arena for interdisciplinary research, is unique, he says.

Mechanisms affecting future development
Science Director Carl Folke at Stockholm Resilience Centre is co-author of the Science article.

He explains how some ecosystems can only be sustained through human management practices, whereas many conservation efforts preclude such human interference.

The studies include the Kristiandstads Vattenrike of Sweden. Here, the wetland site was set aside for conservation purposes, but the wetland became overgrown when grazing was halted. This unintended consequence led to an understanding that of grazing as essential maintaining this wetland system.

- Without a proper understanding on how humans and nature affects and depend on each other, it is impossible to implement satisfying management strategies and effective policy work, he says.

- More knowledge based on interdisciplinary research within social-ecological research is required in order for us to better manage current climate changes and ecosystem degradation. We have to start realize that humans are a part of nature and stop acting as if we are a separate unit to it. The same goes for social-ecological research, Carl Folke says.

Source: Schneider, W.W. Taylor. 2007. Complexity of Coupled Human and Natural Systems. Science 317:1513-1516.



Schneider, W.W. Taylor. 2007. Complexity of Coupled Human and Natural Systems. Science 317:1513-1516.


Stockholm Resilience Centre is a collaboration between Stockholm University and the Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics at the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences

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