Resilience in coupled natural-social systems

Place-based, this theme investigated the sustainable management of natural landscapes such that they may continue to deliver the services human wellbeing depends on, while also maintaining biodiverse and functional ecosystems.

Ensuring sustainable environments, in a world where the climate and other conditions are changing, requires a new understanding of how physical, ecological and social processes are inter-related.

Interactions between these processes across different scales both determine quality of life and how natural systems can function. Understanding their coupled relationship is vital for adaptive systems of management and governance that can ensure sustainability despite increased pressure stemming from climate change, food security, and water scarcity.

By aiming to understand these interactions, the programme worked to address the apparent 'misfit' between physical environments, eco-systems and social institutions. Working at the interface between ecology, earth sciences and social sciences, the team developed new concepts and tools to answer such questions as:

  • what combinations of ecosystems and social systems are sustainable? How can these relationships be strengthened to foster higher resilience?
  • how can non-sustainable trajectories be recast?
  • what scales are relevant to the sustainable management of natural resources and ecosystem functions, and how can findings be translated from one scale to another?
  • what tools and measures best assess current interactions between societies and their natural environments, and can also be used for predictive purposes?

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