Advancing sustainability through mainstreaming a social-ecological systems perspective


The concept of social–ecological systems is useful for understanding the interlinked dynamics of environmental and societal change. The concept has helped facilitate: (1) increased recognition of the dependence of humanity on ecosystems; (2) improved collaboration across disciplines, and between science and society; (3) increased methodological pluralism leading to improved systems understanding; and (4) major policy frameworks considering social–ecological interactions.

Despite these advances, the potential of a social–ecological systems perspective to improve sustainability outcomes has not been fully realized. Key priorities are to: (1) better understand and govern social–ecological interactions between regions; (2) pay greater attention to long-term drivers; (3) better understand the interactions among power relations, justice, and ecosystem stewardship; and (4) develop a stronger science–society interface.


Publication info: Fischer, J., T.A. Gardner, E.M. Bennett, P. Balvanera, R. Biggs, S. Carpenter, T. Daw, C. Folke, R. Hill, T.P. Hughes, T. Luthe, M. Maass, M. Meacham, A.V. Norström, G. Peterson, C. Queiroz, R. Seppelt, M. Spierenburg, J. Tenhunen. 2015. Advancing sustainability through mainstreaming a social-ecological systems perspective. Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 14: 144–149

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