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Advancing sustainability through mainstreaming a social–ecological systems perspective

Fischer, J., T.A. Gardner, E.B. Bennett, P. Balvanera, R. Biggs, S.R. Carpenter, T. Daw, C. Folke, R. Hill, T. Hughes, T. Luthe, M. Maass, M. Meacham, A.V. Norström, G. Peterson, C. Queiroz, R. Seppelt, M. Spierenburg, and J. Tenhunen (2015). Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 14:144-149.


The concept of social–ecological systems is useful for understanding the interlinked dynamics of environmental and societal change. The concept has helped facilitate: (1) increased recognition of the dependence of humanity on ecosystems; (2) improved collaboration across disciplines, and between science and society; (3) increased methodological pluralism leading to improved systems understanding; and (4) major policy frameworks considering social–ecological interactions. Despite these advances, the potential of a social–ecological systems perspective to improve sustainability outcomes has not been fully realized. Key priorities are to: (1) better understand and govern social–ecological interactions between regions; (2) pay greater attention to long-term drivers; (3) better understand the interactions among power relations, justice, and ecosystem stewardship; and (4) develop a stronger science–society interface.

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Keywords: social-ecological systems, environmental change, interdisciplinarity, sustainability, transdisciplinarity

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