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Disentangling intangible social-ecological systems
Stockholm University, Stockholm Resilience Centre. Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Systems Ecology.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Systems Ecology. Stockholm University, Stockholm Resilience Centre.
2012 (English)In: Global Environmental Change, ISSN 0959-3780, Vol. 22, no 2, 430-439 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Contemporary environmental challenges call for new research approaches that include the human dimension when studying the natural environment. In spite of the recent development of several conceptual frameworks integrating human society with nature, there has been less methodological and theoretical progress on how to quantitatively study such social-ecological interdependencies. We propose a novel theoretical framework for addressing this gap that partly builds on the rapidly growing interdisciplinary research on complex networks. The framework makes it possible to unpack, define and formalize ways in which societies and nature are interdependent, and to empirically link this to specific governance challenges and opportunities using a range of theories from both the social and natural sciences in an integrated way. At the core of the framework is a set of basic building blocks (motifs) that each represents a simplified but non-trivial social-ecological systems (SES) consisting of two social actors and two ecological resources. The set represents all possible patterns of interdependency in a SES. Each unique motif is characterized in terms of social and ecological connectivity, resource sharing, and resource substitutability. By aligning theoretical insights related to the management of common-pool resources, metapopulation dynamics, and the problem of fit in SES with the set of motifs, we demonstrate the multi-theoretical ability of the framework in a case study of a rural agricultural landscape in southern Madagascar. Several mechanisms explaining the inhabitants' demonstrated ability to preserve their scattered forest patches in spite of strong pressures on land and forest resources are presented.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2012. Vol. 22, no 2, 430-439 p.
Keyword [en]
Social-ecological systems, Transdisciplinary, Multi-theoretical framework, Network analysis, Motif, Environmental governance
National Category
Environmental Sciences
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-80076DOI: 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2012.01.005ISI: 000304290100013OAI: diva2:555994


Available from: 2012-09-23 Created: 2012-09-12 Last updated: 2012-09-23Bibliographically approved

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Tengo, Maria
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Stockholm Resilience CentreDepartment of Systems Ecology
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