New study about interdependencies between societies and ecological system published in Nature Sustainability

2019-06-25

Sustainable management of natural resources requires knowledge of the complex interdependencies that exist between societies and ecological systems. A new study in Nature Sustainability identifies what these dependencies are, how they arise, and what the consequences are for sustainable environmental governance. “The study is an important step in enhancing our understanding of how societies interact with ecosystems and thus the ability to develop more sustainable solutions”, says Daniel Nohrstedt - Associate Professor at the Department of Political Science and one of the researchers behind the study.

Contributing to sustainable management of the earth’s limited resources is one of the most important tasks of the scientific community. However, existing knowledge is based on studies of individual cases and there is a great need for common theories and methods for developing a more general understanding as a basis for developing political solutions. The study shows how a network perspective – a description of a system consisting of a set of nodes and links (Fig a) – can be used to develop new knowledge about causes and consequences in social-ecological systems.

Fig a. Exempel (från skogsförvaltning på Madagaskar) på social-ekologiskt nätverk med aktörer (röda noder) och skogsområden (gröna noder). Aktörer är kopplade till varandra genom släktskap (röda länkar), skogsområden till varandra via ekologiska beroenden genom artspridning i landskapet (gröna länkar) och aktörer till skogsområden via ägarskap eller förvaltningsansvar. 

An important step is to identify the most common challenges that arise in the management of common natural resources. One example is that actors often have to consider problems that require different time perspectives and involve different levels in society, which places great demands on the  ability of actors to achieve coordination.

– This area has long been interesting for political science, especially with regard to the ability of societies to address conflicts and coordination problems around common natural resources. What is new in our study is to illustrate recurring causes and challenges in these situations, which is a first step in developing a broader knowledge to support more sustainable solutions, says Daniel Nohrstedt.

The study is the result of an interdisciplinary international collaboration between 19 researchers, led by Örjan Bodin at the Stockholm Resilience Centre.

Read the full paper here