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Social-ecological systems as complex adaptive systems: modeling and policy implications

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  27 November 2012

Simon Levin
Affiliation:
Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, Princeton University, USA. E-mail: slevin@princeton.edu
Tasos Xepapadeas
Affiliation:
Department of International and European Economic Studies, Athens University of Economics and Business, Greece. E-mail: xepapad@aueb.gr
Anne-Sophie Crépin
Affiliation:
The Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, Box 50005, 10405 Stockholm, Sweden; and Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden. E-mail: annesophie.crepin@beijer.kva.se
Jon Norberg
Affiliation:
Stockholm Resilience Centre and Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University, Sweden. E-mail: jon.norberg@ecology.su.se
Aart de Zeeuw
Affiliation:
Tilburg Sustainability Center, Tilburg University, The Netherlands; and The Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, Stockholm, Sweden. E-mail: A.J.deZeeuw@uvt.nl
Carl Folke
Affiliation:
The Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, Stockholm, Sweden; and Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden. E-mail: carl.folke@beijer.kva.se
Terry Hughes
Affiliation:
ARC Center of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, Australia. E-mail: terry.hughes@jcu.edu.au
Kenneth Arrow
Affiliation:
Economics Department, Stanford University, USA. E-mail: arrow@stanford.edu
Scott Barrett
Affiliation:
School of International and Public Affairs, Columbia University, USA. E-mail: sb3116@columbia.edu
Gretchen Daily
Affiliation:
Center for Conservation Biology, Department of Biology, Stanford University, USA. E-mail: gdaily@leland.stanford.edu
Paul Ehrlich
Affiliation:
Center for Conservation Biology, Department of Biology, Stanford University, USA. E-mail: pre@stanford.edu
Nils Kautsky
Affiliation:
Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University, Sweden. E-mail: nils@ecology.su.se
Karl-Göran Mäler
Affiliation:
The Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, Stockholm, Sweden. E-mail: karl@beijer.kva.se
Steve Polasky
Affiliation:
Departments of Applied Economics and Ecology, Evolution and Behavior, University of Minnesota, USA; and The Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, Stockholm, Sweden. E-mail: polasky@umn.edu
Max Troell
Affiliation:
The Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, Stockholm, Sweden; and Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden. E-mail: max@beijer.kva.se
Jeffrey R. Vincent
Affiliation:
Nicholas School of the Environment and Sanford School of Public Policy, Duke University, USA; and The Beijer Institute of Ecological Economics, Stockholm, Sweden. E-mail: Jeff.Vincent@duke.edu
Brian Walker
Affiliation:
CSIRO, Australia; and Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden. E-mail: brian.walker@csiro.au

Abstract

Systems linking people and nature, known as social-ecological systems, are increasingly understood as complex adaptive systems. Essential features of these complex adaptive systems – such as nonlinear feedbacks, strategic interactions, individual and spatial heterogeneity, and varying time scales – pose substantial challenges for modeling. However, ignoring these characteristics can distort our picture of how these systems work, causing policies to be less effective or even counterproductive. In this paper we present recent developments in modeling social-ecological systems, illustrate some of these challenges with examples related to coral reefs and grasslands, and identify the implications for economic and policy analysis.

Type
Research Article
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2012

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