Photo: B. Christensen/Azote

Photo: B. Christensen/Azote

Advancing Complex Adaptive Systems and resilience thinking

This theme aims to advance complex adaptive systems and resilience thinking and understanding of social-ecological systems by engaging with, testing, further developing and operationalizing related concepts, theories and methods

Social-ecological systems (SES) are complex adaptive systems (CAS). CAS is a class of systems whose macroscopic behavior emerges from self-organized local interactions of their elements, such as actors interacting with ecosystems and with other actors.

Characteristics of CAS are their non-linear, often unexpected behavior, their path-dependency (an event in the past determines the development of the system in the future), and the diversity of their elements which enable adaptation to changing conditions.

In SES the interactions of many diverse actors with ecosystems within given social and biophysical environments determine the development of the system over time. SES, in which people and ecosystems are interdependent and interact dynamically across scales, display many features of CAS. Resilience thinking has advanced approaches and methods of studying SES taking these characteristics into account.

How do we study SES as CAS? What do the CAS features of SES mean for the selection of approaches, theories and methods we use? And how can we communicate complexity and the CAS nature of SES?

We will

i) explore how CAS and resilience thinking can be used to frame research (what research questions? what theories to use?)

ii) assess and further develop CAS methods to study SES

iii) further develop theoretical understanding of CAS and Resilience Thinking, including theories of SES that are based on complexity thinking

iv) develop means to communicate complexity through visualizations and illustrative examples.

The stream will work on different concrete examples of SES phenomena such as sustainable or unsustainable resource governance, regime shifts, transformations, etc. to address these challenges.

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Staff details




The Arctic Resilience Report

The Arctic Resilience Report is a science-based assessment that aims to better understand the integrated impacts of change in the Arctic. Read more here

Regime shifts database

The Regime Shifts DataBase provides examples of different types of regime shifts that have been documented in social-ecological systems. Read more here

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

Stockholm Resilience Centre
Stockholm University, Kräftriket 2B
Phone: +46 8 674 70 70

Organisation number: 202100-3062
VAT No: SE202100306201