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

  title={Social-ecological systems as complex adaptive systems: modeling and policy implications},
  author={Simon A. Levin and Tasos Xepapadeas and Anne-Sophie Cr{\'e}pin and Jon Norberg and Aart de Zeeuw and Carl Folke and Terry P. Hughes and Kenneth J. Arrow and Scott Barrett and Gretchen C. Daily and Paul R. Ehrlich and Nils Kautsky and K-G. M{\"a}ler and Stephen Polasky and Max Troell and Jeffrey R. Vincent and Brian Walker},
  journal={Environment and Development Economics},
  pages={111 - 132}
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… 

Modeling Social-Ecological Scenarios in Marine Systems

Human activities have substantial impacts on marine ecosystems+ including rapid regime shifts with large consequences for human well-being. We highlight the use of model-based scenarios as a

Marine Ecosystems as Complex Adaptive Systems: Emergent Patterns, Critical Transitions, and Public Goods

This work discusses how the development and usage of new techniques for coupling ecological and evolutionary dynamics, for integrating dynamics across multiple scales of organization, and for using data to infer the complex interactions among different components of ecological systems have led to an improved understanding of three universal features of complex adaptive systems.

Generalized modeling of empirical social‐ecological systems

Generalized modeling is reviewed and a recent study on the Baltic Sea cod fishery's boom and collapse is used to demonstrate its application to modeling the dynamics of empirical social‐ecological systems.

Sustainability science: accounting for nonlinear dynamics in policy and social–ecological systems

  • A. Garmestani
  • Political Science
    Clean Technologies and Environmental Policy
  • 2013
Resilience is an emergent property of complex systems. Understanding resilience is critical for sustainability science, as linked social–ecological systems and the policy process that governs them

Social-ecological systems as complex adaptive systems: organizing principles for advancing research methods and approaches

CITATION: Preise, R., et al. 2018. Social-ecological systems as complex adaptive systems : organizing principles for advancing research methods and approaches. Ecology and Society, 23(4):46,

Operationalizing the social-ecological systems framework to assess sustainability

The case of small-scale fisheries in Baja California Sur, Mexico is used to identify distinct SES regions and test key aspects of coupled SESs theory, highlighting the importance of integrative, coupled system analyses when implementing spatial planning and other ecosystem-based strategies.

Policy Option Simulation in Socio-ecological Systems

A conceptual analysis on key aspects of policy simulation in SESs is presented and a combined use of Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping (FCM) and Agent-Based Modeling (ABM) methods as an approach to cover those aspects.

5 Key Challenges and Solutions for Governing Complex Adaptive (Food) Systems

There is increasing recognition in academic circles of the importance of adaptive governance for the sustainability of social-ecological systems, but little examination of specific implications for

Social-Ecological Systems Insights for Navigating the Dynamics of the Anthropocene

Social-ecological systems (SES) research offers new theory and evidence to transform sustainable development to better contend with the challenges of the Anthropocene. Four insights from contemporary



Learning to live in a global commons: socioeconomic challenges for a sustainable environment

  • S. Levin
  • Economics
    Ecological Research
  • 2006
Ecologists, economists and other social scientists have much incentive for interaction. First of all, ecological systems and socioeconomic systems are linked in their dynamics, and these linkages are

Ecosystems and the Biosphere as Complex Adaptive Systems

  • S. Levin
  • Environmental Science
  • 1998
Given the multiple levels at which dynamics become apparent and at which selection can act, central issues relate to how evolution shapes ecosystems properties, and whether ecosystems become buffered to changes over their ecological and evolutionary development or proceed to critical states and the edge of chaos.

Pattern Formation, Spatial Externalities and Regulation in Coupled Economic-Ecological Systems

We develop a novel theoretical framework for studying ecosystems in which interacting state variables which are affected by management decisions diffuse in space. We identify (i) mechanisms creating

Adaptive Comanagement for Building Resilience in Social–Ecological Systems

It is proposed that the self-organizing process of adaptive comanagement development, facilitated by rules and incentives of higher levels, has the potential to expand desirable stability domains of a region and make social–ecological systems more robust to change.

Resilience, Robustness, and Marine Ecosystem-based Management

The challenge for management is to increase incentives to individuals, and tighten reward loops, in ways that will strengthen the robustness and resilience of these systems and preserve their ability to provide ecosystem services for generations to come.

Science for managing ecosystem services: Beyond the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

New research is needed that considers the full ensemble of processes and feedbacks, for a range of biophysical and social systems, to better understand and manage the dynamics of the relationship between humans and the ecosystems on which they rely.

Grazing Management, Resilience, and the Dynamics of a Fire-driven Rangeland System

We developed a stylized mathematical model to explore the effects of physical, ecological, and economic factors on the resilience of a managed fire-driven rangeland system. Depending on grazing

Phenotypic diversity and ecosystem functioning in changing environments: A theoretical framework

It is suggested that approaches developed for quantitative genetics can be extended to ecosystem functioning by modeling the means and variances of phenotypes within a group of species, and that phenotypic variance within functional groups is linearly related to their ability to respond to environmental changes.

Resilience and Stability of Ecological Systems

The traditional view of natural systems, therefore, might well be less a meaningful reality than a perceptual convenience.