Tag Archives: social-ecological systems

Readings on ES in a Social-Ecological Context (with a resilience emphasis)

Recently I developed a short reading list for PhD students working on ecosystem services at the Stockholm Resilience Centre.  This list seeks to cover and introduce a broad area of ecosystem service research with a focus on understanding ecosystem services in a social-ecological context, with a special focus on resilience.

Background

  1. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. 2005. MA Conceptual framework.  Chapter 1 in Ecosystems and Human WellBeing: Status and Trends. Island Press (Washington, DC). [available online at: http://www.csrc.sr.unh.edu/~lammers/MacroscaleHydrology/Papers/MilleniumAssessment-ResponsesAssessment-01-MA%20Conceptual%20Framework.aspx.pdf]
  2. Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. 2005.  Analytical Approaches for Assessing  Ecosystem Condition and Human Well-being.  Chapter 2 in Ecosystems and Human WellBeing: Status and Trends. Island Press (Washington, DC). [available online at: http://www.pik-potsdam.de/news/public-events/archiv/alter-net/former-ss/2009/06.09.2009/cramer/literature/de_fries_et_al_mea.pdf

Ecology and ES

  1. Kremen, C. (2005). Managing ecosystem services: what do we need to know about their ecology?. Ecology Letters, 8(5), 468-479.
  2. Lavorel, S., Grigulis, K., Fourier, J. & Cedex, G. (2012) How fundamental plant functional trait relationships scale-up to trade-offs and synergies in ecosystem services. Journal of Ecology, 100, 128–140.

Institutions & ES

  1. Jack, B.K., Kousky, C. & Sims, K.R.E. (2008) Designing payments for ecosystem services: Lessons from previous experience with incentive-based mechanisms. PNAS, 105, 9465–70.
  2. Muradian, R., Corbera, E., Pascual, U., Kosoy, N. & May, P.H. (2010) Reconciling theory and practice: An alternative conceptual framework for understanding payments for environmental services. Ecological Economics, 69, 1202–1208.
  3. Rathwell, K. J., and G. D. Peterson. 2012. Connecting social networks with ecosystem services for watershed governance: a social-ecological network perspective highlights the critical role of bridging organizationsEcology and Society 17(2): 24.
  4. van Noordwijk, M., & Leimona, B. (2010). Principles for Fairness and Efficiency in Enhancing Environmental Services in Asia: Payments, Compensation, or Co-Investment? Ecology and Society15(4), 17.

Proposed Framework Extensions

  1. Chan, Kai MA, et al. 2012 Where are cultural and social in ecosystem services? A framework for constructive engagement. BioScience 62(8): 744-756.
  2. Daw, T., Brown, K., Rosendo, S. & Pomeroy, R. 2011 Applying the ecosystem services concept to poverty alleviation: the need to disaggregate human well-being. Environmental Conservation, 38, 370–379.
  3. Daniel, T. C., Muhar, A., Arnberger, A., Aznar, O., Boyd, J. W., Chan, K., … & von der Dunk, A. 2012. Contributions of cultural services to the ecosystem services agenda. PNAS109(23), 8812-8819.
  4. Fisher, B., Turner, R. & Morling, P. (2009) Defining and classifying ecosystem services for decision making. Ecological Economics, 68, 643–653.

ES & Resilience

  1. Biggs, R., Schlüter, M., Biggs, D., Bohensky, E. L., BurnSilver, S., Cundill, G., … & West, P. C. (2012). Toward Principles for Enhancing the Resilience of Ecosystem Services. Annual Review of Environment and Resources37(1).
  2. Enfors et al., 2008 Making investments in dryland development work: participatory scenario planning in the Makanya catchment, Tanzania.  Ecology and Society, 13 (2)42
  3. Raudsepp-Hearne, C., Peterson, G.D., Tengö, 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, 60, 576–589.

Tradeoffs & Bundles of ES

  1. Bennett, E.M., Peterson, G.D. & Gordon, L.J. (2009) Understanding relationships among multiple ecosystem services. Ecology Letters, 12, 1394–404.
  2. Raudsepp-Hearne, C., Peterson, G.D. & Bennett, E.M. (2010) Ecosystem service bundles for analyzing tradeoffs in diverse landscapes. PNAS, 107, 5242–7.
  3. Nelson, E., Mendoza, G., Regetz, J., Polasky, S., Tallis, H., Cameron, Dr., Chan, K.M., Daily, G.C., Goldstein, J., Kareiva, P.M., Lonsdorf, E., Naidoo, R., Ricketts, T.H. & Shaw, Mr. (2009) Modeling multiple ecosystem services, biodiversity conservation, commodity production, and tradeoffs at landscape scales. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 7, 4–11.

Implementation

  1. Cowling, R.M., Egoh, B., Knight, A.T., O’Farrell, P.J., Reyers, B., Rouget’ll, M., Roux, D.J., Welz, A. & Wilhelm-Rechman, A. (2008) An operational model for mainstreaming ecosystem services for implementation. PNAS, 105, 9483–9488.
  2. Daily, G.C., Polasky, S., Goldstein, J., Kareiva, P.M., Mooney, H. a, Pejchar, L., Ricketts, T.H., Salzman, J. & Shallenberger, R. (2009b) Ecosystem services in decision making: time to deliver. Frontiers in Ecology & the Environment, 7, 21–28.
  3. O’Farrell, P. J., Anderson, P. M., Le Maitre, D. C., & Holmes, P. M. (2012). Insights and opportunities offered by a rapid ecosystem service assessment in promoting a conservation agenda in an urban biodiversity hotspotEcology and Society17(3), 27.

Questions + Futures

  1. Carpenter, S.R., Mooney, H. a, Agard, J., Capistrano, D., Defries, R.S., Díaz, S., Dietz, T., Duraiappah, A.K., Oteng-Yeboah, A., Pereira, H.M., Perrings, C., Reid, W. V, Sarukhan, J., Scholes, R.J. & Whyte, A.  2009. Science for managing ecosystem services: Beyond the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment. PNAS, 106, 1305–12.
  2. Kinzig, A., Perrings, C., Chapin III, F., Polasky, S., Smith, V., Tilman, D. & Turner II, B. 2011. Paying for Ecosystem Services — Promise and Peril. Science, 334, 603–604.
  3. Kremen, C. and R.S. Ostfeld. 2005. A call to ecologists: measuring, analyzing, and managing ecosystem services. Frontiers in Ecology and Environment 3:10:540-548.
  4. Norgaard, R.B. 2010. Ecosystem services: From eye-opening metaphor to complexity blinder. Ecological Economics, 69, 1219–1227.

This list over emphasizes the research from Stockholm Resilience Centre, which is useful for us, but probably not for those with other interests.  For those who are interested – I have a broader open Mendeley of papers of ecosystem services – here.

Please suggest papers that our students should be reading in the comments.

 

Wikipedia page on Social-ecological systems

I was pleasantly surprised to discover that wikipedia has a substantial and good page on the concept of social-ecological system.

Socio-ecological system – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

A socio-ecological system consists of ‘a bio-geo-physical’ unit and its associated social actors and institutions. Socio-ecological systems are complex and adaptive and delimited by spatial or functional boundaries surrounding particular ecosystems and their problem context. [1]

A socio-ecological system can be defined as: [2](p. 163)

  • A coherent system of biophysical and social factors that regularly interact in a resilient, sustained manner;
  • A system that is defined at several spatial, temporal, and organisational scales, which may be hierarchically linked;
  • A set of critical resources (natural, socioeconomic, and cultural) whose flow and use is regulated by a combination of ecological and social systems; and
  • A perpetually dynamic, complex system with continuous adaptation. [3] [4][5]

Scholars have used the concept of socio-ecological systems to emphasise the integrate concept of humans in nature and to stress that the delineation between social systems and ecological systems is artificial and arbitrary. [6] Whilst resilience has somewhat different meaning in social and ecological context [7], the SES approach holds that social and ecological systems are linked through feedback mechanisms, and that both display resilience and complexity. [5]

I urge Resilience Science to go and improve it.
I noticed there are no images.

More conceptual diagrams of social-ecological systems

Following up on my post yesterday on conceptual diagrams of social-ecolgoical systems (SES), below are some more SES conceptual diagrams from the journal Ecology and Society.

I did a google search that found a bunch of nice and not so nice diagrams in Ecology and Societyy, which is the main journal publishing research that uses the term social-ecological system (at least according to ISI’s web of science).  Below is a sampling of images, and below that a few examples.

Continue reading

Conceptualizing Social-Ecological Systems

I’ve recently been teaching about social-ecological systems and because I think it is important to conceptualize systems graphically these discussions caused me to reflect on the conceptual diagrams of social-ecological systems

Conceptualizing something as a social-ecological system hides some aspects of reality to focus on others. Social-ecological systems focus on the interactions and
Factors that distinguish social-ecological systems from other approach feedbacks between social and ecological, in particular how social and ecological alter one another and “co-evolve.”

As a systems approach it focuses on structures and processes, but because it comes from a resilience orientation in is particularly interested in how these structures persist and reorganize in response to shocks, gradual changes, or purposeful transformations.

Below are a number of different takes on conceptual diagrams of social-ecological systems that I think show some different aspects of social-ecological systems.

There are many other conceptual diagrams of social-ecological systems and I’d welcome any comments that point to other papers that have particularly interesting or different conceptual diagrams.

The full citations of the papers are:

  • Berkes, Folke, and Colding editors. 2003. Navigating Social Ecological Systems. Cambridge University Press.
  • Chapin, F.S., Lovecraft, A.L., Zavaleta, E.S., Nelson, J., Robards, M.D., Kofinas, G.P., Trainor, S.F., Peterson, G.D., Huntington, H.P. & Naylor, R.L. (2006) Policy strategies to address sustainability of Alaskan boreal forests in response to a directionally changing climate. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 103, 16637-43. doi: 10.1073/pnas.0606955103
  • Anderies, J. M., M. A. Janssen, and E. Ostrom. 2004. A framework to analyze the robustness of social-ecological systems from an institutional perspective. Ecology and Society 9(1): 18. [online] URL: http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol9/iss1/art18/
  • Bennett, E.M., Peterson, G.D. & Gordon, L.J. (2009) Understanding relationships among multiple ecosystem services. Ecology Letters, 12, 1394-404. DOI: 10.1111/j.1461-0248.2009.01387.x

Adaptive Agricultural and Environmental Decision-making Postdoc at UC Davis

UC Davis Post-Doctoral Position in Adaptive Agricultural and Environmental Decision-making with Mark Lubell.

The UC Davis Department of Environmental Science and Policy seeks to fill one post-doctoral position in Adaptive Agricultural and Environmental Decision-making. The post-doctoral position will be for two years residence with possible third year renewal, starting Fall 2011 or earlier. The post-doctoral fellow will support a USDA funded project analyzing local rangeland restoration programs and individual factors that encourage ranchers to engage in adaptive rangeland management. The project involves analyzing data from structured survey of California ranchers, with possible addition of comparative data from Wyoming. The project also involves designing and expert elicitation or mental models process to map the decision-making process of ranchers in conjunction with an agro-ecological field experiment in adaptive rangeland management. The study will advance basic science in adaptive decision-making and coupled social-ecological systems. The project is being conducted by an interdisciplinary team including natural and social scientists. More information about the rangeland management project can be found here: UC Davis Adaptive Rangeland Management Project.

The post-doctoral fellow will be a member of Dr. Mark Lubell’s Center for Environmental Policy and Behaviorand housed in the Department of Environmental Science and Policy. In addition to the rangeland restoration project, the post-doc will have opportunities to participate in other projects on sustainable agriculture, water management, and climate change; mentor graduate students, teach classes, develop new research funding; and generally support an active research group.

Applicants should be recent recipients of a doctoral degree, with demonstrated interest and publication ability in agricultural and environmental decision-making and policy. Applicants are required to have a background in survey design and analysis, social science theory, and strong skills in quantitative statistical and network analysis. Applicants should also be trained in the design and analysis of expert elicitation protocols such as semantic networks, multi-criteria decision making, mental models, learning models, decision-making under uncertainty, and risk perception. The project requires strong interpersonal and language skills to interact directly with agricultural communities and stakeholders. Experience with rangeland management is preferred but not required. The position is open with respect to academic discipline, and could include behavioral decision theory, economics, political science, sociology, or other appropriate social science training.

Please notify Dr. Mark Lubell (mnlubell@ucdavis.edu) as soon as possible if you intend to apply, and send full applications electronically by August 1, 2011. Applications received by this date will be given first consideration, although we will continue to accept applications after that date. Applications should include a CV, letter describing research interests and background as applied to this project, examples of any relevant publications, and three letters of reference. Top candidates will be screened by telephone with possibility of campus visit. The University of California, Davis, is an affirmative action/equal opportunity employer with a strong institutional commitment to the development of a climate that supports equality of opportunity and respect for differences.

The Anthropocene: spread of an idea

The Anthropocene, the idea that the entire planet has become a social-ecological system, is now being discussed in the mass media.  Three recent sightings…

1) The Economist has a feature story A man-made world: Science is recognising humans as a geological force to be reckoned with.  The author writes:

To think of deliberately interfering in the Earth system will undoubtedly be alarming to some. But so will an Anthropocene deprived of such deliberation. A way to try and split the difference has been propounded by a group of Earth-system scientists inspired by (and including) Dr Crutzen under the banner of “planetary boundaries”. The planetary-boundaries group, which published a sort of manifesto in 2009, argues for increased restraint and, where necessary, direct intervention aimed at bringing all sorts of things in the Earth system, from the alkalinity of the oceans to the rate of phosphate run-off from the land, close to the conditions pertaining in the Holocene. Carbon-dioxide levels, the researchers recommend, should be brought back from whatever they peak at to a level a little higher than the Holocene’s and a little lower than today’s.

The Earth’s history shows that the planet can indeed tip from one state to another, amplifying the sometimes modest changes which trigger the transition. The nightmare would be a flip to some permanently altered state much further from the Holocene than things are today: a hotter world with much less productive oceans, for example. Such things cannot be ruled out. On the other hand, the invocation of poorly defined tipping points is a well worn rhetorical trick for stirring the fears of people unperturbed by current, relatively modest, changes.

In general, the goal of staying at or returning close to Holocene conditions seems judicious. It remains to be seen if it is practical. The Holocene never supported a civilisation of 10 billion reasonably rich people, as the Anthropocene must seek to do, and there is no proof that such a population can fit into a planetary pot so circumscribed. So it may be that a “good Anthropocene”, stable and productive for humans and other species they rely on, is one in which some aspects of the Earth system’s behaviour are lastingly changed. For example, the Holocene would, without human intervention, have eventually come to an end in a new ice age. Keeping the Anthropocene free of ice ages will probably strike most people as a good idea.

2) The New York Times has a discussion between a number of thinkers on the Anthropocene – The Age of Anthropocene: Should We Worry? The discussants include Jon Foley, Erle Ellis, Ruth DeFreis, and Brad Allenby.

3) There are also shorter articles in the BBC and Discovery News.

Job: Assistant Prof. in Systems Ecology @ Stockholm University

The Natural Resources Management group of the Department of  Systems Ecology at Stockholm University, which is closely connected to the Stockholm Resilience Centre is looking for an Assistant Professor.  Applications are due May 31,2011.  For full details see the job ad, which states:

Subject description: Natural resource management includes studies of the role of biodiversity in generation of ecosystem services, dynamics of social-ecological systems and institutions and governance related to management of ecosystems.

Main tasks: Research, and to some extent teaching and supervision.

Required qualifications: A person who has been awarded a PhD or a qualification from another country that is considered equivalent to a PhD is qualified for employment as an associate university lecturer. Preference is given to candidates awarded their degree no more than five years before the closing date for applications. Candidates awarded their degree more than five years previously are also given preference if special grounds apply, such as leave of absence because of illness, leave of absence for military service, leave for an elected position in a trade union or student organization, or parental leave or other similar circumstances.

The applicant must have the ability to collaborate as well as the competence and qualities needed to carry out the work tasks successfully.

Assessment criteria: Special weight will be given to scientific proficiency. Some weight will also be given to teaching proficiency.

When merits are similar according to the general criteria, the following should be considered as special merits:

• Experience of ecological research bordering to research in social science and economics.

Additional information: An associate university lecturer is employed for 4 years. The employment can be extended to 5 years maximum, if he or she has taught more than 25 % at the undergraduate level.

An associate university lecturer can apply for promotion to a tenured position as university lecturer. Assessment criteria for the evaluation can be obtained from the Faculty of Science.

The applicant is expected to contribute to strengthening collaboration among the research groups in natural resource management, marine ecology and marine ecotoxicology at the Department of Systems Ecology and with research groups at the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

Further information about the position can be obtained from professor Thomas Elmqvist, e-mail: thomase@ecology.su.se, telephone +46 (0)8 16 12 83 or the Head of Department Nils Kautsky, e-mail: nils@ecology.su.se, telephone +46 (0)8 16 42 51.

Clive Hamilton on climate denialism and social-ecological systems and

Clive Hamilton is an author and Professor of Public Ethics at Charles Stuart University and Centre for Applied Philosophy and Public Ethics in Australia.  He has been writing about the ethics of climate change, and climate denial.

In his interesting talk, Why We Resist the Truth About Climate Change, one of the points he makes is the importance and difference of a social-ecological perspective:

Developments in climate science have revealed a natural world so influenced by human activity that the epistemological division between nature and society can no longer be maintained. When global warming triggers feedback effects, such as melting permafrost and declining albedo from ice-melt, will we be seeing nature at work or human intervention? The mingling of the natural and the human has philosophical as well as practical significance, because the “object” has been contaminated by the “subject”.

Climate denial can be understood as a last-ditch attempt to re-impose the Enlightenment’s allocation of humans and Nature to two distinct realms, as if the purification of climate science could render Nature once again natural, as if taking politics out of science can take humans out of Nature. The irony is that it was Enlightenment science itself, in the rules laid down by the Royal Society, that objectified the natural world, putting it on the rack, in Bacon’s grisly metaphor, in order to extract its secrets. We came to believe we could keep Nature at arms-length, but have now discovered, through the exertions of climate science, something pre- moderns took for granted, that Nature is always too close for comfort.

For more see his book, Requeim for a Species, or his related talk at the UK’s RSAFacing up to Climate Change.

Resilience meets architecture and urban planning

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by Matteo Giusti [contact: matteo.giusti [at] gmail.com]
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Does resilience thinking and architecture really mix? The answer is a clear “yes” if you ask urban planner Marco Miglioranzi, and Matteo Giusti, Master student at the Stockholm Resilience Centre. Together with the German based firm of architects N2M, they have developed two projects led by resilience concepts. Their first work, based on social-ecological systems, was preselected in the EuroPan10 competition. The second one, “A Resilient Social-Ecological Urbanity: A Case Study of Henna, Finland” with an emphasis on urban resilience, has been published by the German Academy for Urban and Regional Spatial Planning (DASL) and also featured by HOK –  a renowned global architectural firm.
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The project proposes a wide range of theoretical solutions based on urban resilience which find practical application in Henna’s (Finland) urban area. Governance networks, social dynamics, metabolic flows and built environment are separately analyzed to ultimately restore, and maintain over time, the equilibrium between human demands and ecological lifecycles.
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But the project also challenges current urban planning practices as it states the city’s  future requirements to be unknown. As a result, it identifies “the development-process as a dynamic flow instead of a static state”. Time scale for urban planning is therefore included within an evolving spatial design.
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Diagram of the parametric cell structure: reversible space layer (upper left) and reversible building layer (right)The project description elaborates: “As a result, the planning is not static anymore. It is not a blueprint, not a collection of architectural elements to create an hypothetic Henna out of the current mindsets and needs, but a multitude of tools, methods, opportunities, options, to define a sustainable developing strategy to meet future’s demands. We keep an eye on time, its complexity and we humbly admit we cannot foresee future; we can only provide guiding principles from current scientific understanding to define a social ecological urbanity capable of sustainably moving on with unique identity.”
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All these theoretical premises ends up in Henna’s planning. This includes an energetic smart grid based primarily on Enhanced Geothermal Systems (EGS); community-managed greenhouse areas to enhance food local self- reliance; low-diluted sewage system to reduce water consumption; efficient reuse of municipal solid waste to reach the Zero waste goal; and a problem solving centre to analyze ever-changing social ecological demands. Time is included in space, people in their natural environment, urban services in ecological processes. An harmonious cycle of growth and decays.

Recent papers on ecological resilience

1. Hughes TP, Graham NA, Jackson JB, Mumby PJ, Steneck RS. 2010  Rising to the challenge of sustaining coral reef resilienceTrends in Ecology and Evolution. [epub]

Phase-shifts from one persistent assemblage of species to another have become increasingly commonplace on coral reefs and in many other ecosystems due to escalating human impacts. Coral reef science, monitoring and global assessments have focused mainly on producing detailed descriptions of reef decline, and continue to pay insufficient attention to the underlying processes causing degradation. A more productive way forward is to harness new theoretical insights and empirical information on why some reefs degrade and others do not. Learning how to avoid undesirable phase-shifts, and how to reverse them when they occur, requires an urgent reform of scientific approaches, policies, governance structures and coral reef management.

2. Côté IM, Darling ES, 2010 Rethinking Ecosystem Resilience in the Face of Climate Change. PLoS Biol 8(7): e1000438.

In this Perspective, we will argue that the expectation of increased resilience of natural communities to climate change through the reduction of local stressors may be fundamentally incorrect, and that resilience-focused management may, in fact, result in greater vulnerability to climate impacts. We illustrate our argument using coral reefs as a model. Coral reefs are in an ecological crisis due to climate change and the ever-increasing magnitude of human impacts on these biodiverse habitats [11],[12]. These impacts stem from a multiplicity of local stressors, such as fishing, eutrophication, and sedimentation. It is therefore not surprising that the concept of resilience—to climate change in particular—is perhaps more strongly advocated as an underpinning of management for coral reefs than for any other ecosystem [9],. Marine reserves or no-take areas, the most popular form of spatial management for coral reef conservation, are widely thought to have the potential to increase coral reef resilience [11],[13],[14],[17]. But do they really?

3. Brock, W. A., and S. R. Carpenter. 2010. Interacting regime shifts in ecosystems: implication for early warnings. Ecological Monographs 80:353–367.

Big ecological changes often involve regime shifts in which a critical threshold is crossed. Thresholds are often difficult to measure, and transgressions of thresholds come as surprises. If a critical threshold is approached gradually, however, there are early warnings of the impending regime shift. …  Interacting regime shifts may muffle or magnify variance near critical thresholds. Whether muffling or magnification occurs, and the size of the effect, depend on the product of the feedback between the state variables times the correlation of these variables’ responses to environmental shocks.

4. Dawson, T.P., Rounsevell, M.D.A., Kluvánková-Oravská, T., Chobotová, V. & Stirling, A. 2010. Dynamic properties of complex adaptive ecosystems: implications for the sustainability of service provision. Biodiversity and Conservation. 19(10) 2843-2853.

Predicting environmental change and its impacts on ecosystem goods and services at local to global scales remains a significant challenge for the international scientific community. … Social-Ecological Systems (SES) theory addresses these strongly coupled and complex characteristics of social and ecological systems. It can provide a useful framework for articulating contrasting drivers and pressures on ecosystems and associated service provision, spanning different temporalities and provenances. Here, system vulnerabilities (defined as exposure to threats affecting ability of an SES to cope in delivering relevant functions), can arise from both endogenous and exogenous factors across multiple time-scales. Vulnerabilities may also take contrasting forms, ranging from transient shocks or disruptions, through to chronic or enduring pressures. Recognising these diverse conditions, four distinct dynamic properties emerge (resilience, stability, durability and robustness), under which it is possible to maintain system function and, hence, achieve sustainability.