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?
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.
Research news | 2016-12-01
Science director Carl Folke summarises more than 40 years of resilience research and why it is more relevant than ever
Research news | 2016-11-25
Amid rapid change, new Arctic Resilience Report identifies 19 tipping points and need to prepare for surprises
Research news | 2016-11-18
Threat of abrupt resource decline can trigger more effective communication and cooperation
Research news | 2016-10-17
An integrated perspective of humans-in-nature more important than ever for both science and development
Research news | 2016-10-07
Social norms can cross tipping points faster if new behaviour is difficult for others to ignore
Research news | 2016-10-05
Global examples of a thriving sustainable social-ecological future published
2017 - Journal / article
Formal models are commonly used in natural resource management (NRM) to study human-environment interactions and inform policy making. In the majority of applications, human behaviour is represented by the rational actor model despite growing empirical evidence of its shortcomings in NRM contexts. While the importance of accounting for the complexity of human behaviour is increasingly recognized, its integration into formal mo...
2016 - Journal / article
Cooperation amongst resource users holds the key to overcoming the social dilemma that characterizes community-based common-pool resource management. But is cooperation alone enough to achieve sustainable resource use? The short answer is no. Developing management strategies in a complex social-ecological environment also requires ecological knowledge and approaches to deal with perceived environmental uncertainty. Recent beha...
2016 - Journal / article
Climate change, biodiversity loss, antibiotic resistance, and other global challenges pose major collective action problems: A group benefits from a certain action, but no individual has sufficient incentive to act alone. Formal institutions, e.g., laws and treaties, have helped address issues like ozone depletion, lead pollution, and acid rain. However, formal institutions are not always able to enforce collectively desirable...
2015 - Journal / article
Abrupt systemic changes in ecological and socio-economic systems are a regular occurrence. While there has been much attention to studying systemic changes primarily in ecology as well as in economics, the attempts to do so for coupled socio-environmental systems are rarer. This paper bridges the gap by reviewing how models can be instrumental in exploring significant, fundamental changes in such systems. The history of mod...