Thursday, August 6, 2009 - 3:20 PM

OOS 41-6: Rethinking the ecology of social ecological systems

Lilian Alessa and Andrew Kliskey. University of Alaska Anchorage

Background/Question/Methods The trajectories, patterns, and evolution exhibited by ecosystems and the way they are currently structured now force us to re-examine the dominant approaches to their description, interactions and management. We propose that a paradigm shift is necessary in which we re-integrate the human animal with the natural world. A starting point is to begin to understand ecosystem dynamics as they relate to the scale of daily human interactions. Without such an understanding we are unlikely to develop management strategies that are both adaptive and successful.

Results/Conclusions To this end, we outline a typology for coupled social-ecological systems, that is, landscape and society in which human and biophysical dynamics are fully integrated. This typology spans interactions that are few and of relatively low intensity, subject mainly to acute and concerted human dynamics (e.g., wilderness areas), to those which are chronic and intense (e.g., cities). Finally, we introduce an old, but largely unexplored concept, that of socio-metabolic systems, where the rates of matter and energy transformation, driven by human activities, structure the majority of ecosystems which now comprise Planet Earth.