Typology of SES configurations


Social-ecological systems (SES) are complex adaptive systems in which macro-scale behaviour emerges from micro-scale social-ecological interactions under given biophysical and institutional conditions. However, what influences how these complex co-evolutionary dynamics unfold and which interactions over time are critical for certain outcomes is still poorly understood. In our research which builds on the projects outlined above, we seek to understand these dynamics by identifying patterns or typical configurations of social-ecological interactions that have a high likelihood to lead to specific outcomes, for instance to a regime shift, a social dilemma or a lock-in, across multiple SES. To this end, we develop typical configurations of SES, e.g. a SES that is trapped in an undesirable state or has a high likelihood to undergo a regime shift, from empirical studies and theory and explore them systematically using dynamic modelling approaches. The aim of the modelling is to test hypotheses about which combinations of links are under certain conditions highly likely to lead to specific SES outcomes. These prototypes of SES configurations are then used to inform, and are tested through, an analysis of several selected case studies of water and marine ecosystem management. The configurations serve as heuristic tool to identify the social and ecological processes most relevant for our outcomes of interest. Through such an iterative process of conceptual exploration and case-study analysis we hope to gradually understand which contextual details matter and to further refine the typology.

People: Maja Schlüter, Jamila Haider, Steven Lade, Emilie Lindkvist, Romina Martin, Kirill Orach, Nanda Wijermans

Methods: conceptual development, synthesis