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 SES literature on (a) intertwined SES, (b) cross-scale dynamics, (c) systemic tipping points, and (d) transformational change are explored. Based on these insights, shifts in sustainable development practice are suggested to recognize and govern the complex and codeveloping social…

Natural capital and ecosystem services informing decisions: From promise to practice

The central challenge of the 21st century is to develop economic, social, and governance systems capable of ending poverty and achieving sustainable levels of population and consumption while securing the life-support systems underpinning current and future human well-being. Essential to meeting this challenge is the incorporation of natural capital and the ecosystem services it provides into decision-making. We explore progress and crucial gaps at this…

Impacts of land-use change on groundwater supply: Ecosystem services assessment in Kona, Hawaii

Payments for watershed management link upstream inhabitants whose actions affect water resources with downstream water users. This paper evaluates the effect of plausible shifts in watershed land use on hydrologic services on the Kona coast of Hawai’i Island by measuring vegetation effects on hydrologic fluxes, modeling land-use change impact on the water-supply aquifer, and evaluating the local water department’s associated pumping expenses. Transitions between native…

Applying resilience thinking to production ecosystems

Production ecosystems typically have a high dependence on supporting and regulating ecosystem services and while they have thus far managed to sustain production, this has often been at the cost of externalities imposed on other systems and locations. One of the largest challenges facing humanity is to secure the production of food and fiber while avoiding long-term negative impacts on ecosystems and the range of…

Incorporating Resilience in the Assessment of Inclusive Wealth: An Example from South East Australia

This paper explores the consequences of changes in a system’s resilience on the sustainability of resource allocation decisions, asmeasured by InclusiveWealth (IW) (Arrow et al. in Environ Resour Econ 26:647–685, 2003). We incorporate an estimate of resilience in IW by taking account of known or suspected thresholds that can lead to irreversible (or practically irreversible) changes in the productivity and value of assets and hence…

Sustainable Development and Resilience in Ecosystems

Two new important developments in environmental and resource economics is presented—non convex dynamics of ecosystems and wealth as an indicator of sustainable development. Non convex dynamics imply existence of resilience, that is the robustness of systems to withstand exogenous perturbations. Resilience can be regarded as an insurance against flips of the system into different basins of stability. Sustainable development, according to the Bruntland report, is…

Accounting for ecosystems

Millennium Ecosystem Assessment documented the importance of ecosystem services. It is therefore important to include these services in the national system of economic accounts. This requires estimation of “accounting prices” for ecosystems, that is, the marginal value of a change in the size of the system. This raises a number of questions: What do we mean by the “size” of the system? What is the…

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