Nick Abel

Nick Abel
Australian National University | ANU · Fenner School of Environment & Society

Ph D

About

71
Publications
37,849
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8,808
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Introduction
The political economy and psychology of social change Strategies for adaptation and transformation in response to climate change Collapse and recovery in social-ecological systems

Publications

Publications (71)
Article
Full-text available
Development processes and action on climate change are closely interlinked. This is recognised by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) in its fifth assessment report, which reports on climate-resilient pathways, understood as development trajectories towards sustainable development which include adaptation and mitigation. The upcomi...
Article
Full-text available
Human actions have driven earth systems close to irreversible and profound change. The need to shift towards intentional transformative adaptation (ITA) is clear. Using case studies from the Transformative Adaptation Research Alliance (TARA), we explore ITA as a way of thinking and acting that is transformative in concept and objectives, but achiev...
Article
Although both bodies of constructivist theory were originally developed by psychologists, and deal with how individuals and sets of individuals understand and navigate their worlds, there has been surprisingly little mutual acknowledgement let alone cross-fertilization between Personal Construct Psychology (PCP) and mental models. This article intr...
Technical Report
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The global changes that we face are rapid, novel, interacting and cumulative – we are operating in uncharted territory and that means that there are no ‘off-the-shelf’ solutions. There is an urgent need to understand, design and effectively implement interventions to guide social-ecological systems along sustainable paths into the future. The magni...
Article
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An emerging planning framework for climate adaptation focuses on interactions among societal values, institutional rules and scientific and experiential knowledge about biophysical impacts of climate change and adaptation options. These interactions shape the decision context that can enable or constrain effective adaptation. To illustrate the oper...
Article
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Climate change and its interactions with complex socioeconomic dynamics dictate the need for decision makers to move from incremental adaptation toward transformation as societies try to cope with unprecedented and uncertain change. Developing pathways toward transformation is especially difficult in regions with multiple contested resource uses an...
Technical Report
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RAPTA is a unique tool to help project designers and planners build the ideas of resilience, adaptation and transformation into their projects from the start, to ensure outcomes that are practicable, valuable and sustainable through time and change. This report offers practical advice to planners, project managers, policy makers, donors, farmers, r...
Conference Paper
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Understanding resilience, adaptation and transformation of agroecosystems is critical to meeting the Sustainable Development Goals related to food security, land degradation neutrality and climate change adaptation. › A sound conceptual basis is required for development of effective policy deliver global environmental benefits, and support the sust...
Article
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ABSTRACT. Indigenous peoples now engage with many decentralized approaches to environmental management that offer opportunities for integration of Indigenous Ecological Knowledge (IEK) and western science to promote cultural diversity in the management of social-ecological system sustainability. Nevertheless, processes of combining IEK with western...
Article
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Core to the planning–implementation gap in conservation is the failure to achieve the necessary shared vision and collaboration among typically diverse stakeholder groups to translate conservation assessments and plans into sustained on-ground outcomes for conservation. We suggest that a process of describing and sharing mental models—the cognitive...
Article
Coastal development is spreading along the World's coasts. Sea levels are rising, so major future asset losses are expected. Planned retreat from the sea behind natural ecological defences is one adaptation option. To maintain it, land could be set aside for colonisation by coastal ecosystems, or buildings constructed on condition they are removed...
Article
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Ecosystem stewardship is an action-oriented framework intended to foster the social-ecological sustainability of a rapidly changing planet. Recent developments identify three strategies that make optimal use of current understanding in an environment of inevitable uncertainty and abrupt change: reducing the magnitude of, and exposure and sensitivit...
Article
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"We present a resilience-based approach for assessing sustainability in a sub-catchment of the Murray-Darling Basin in southeast Australia. We define the regional system and identify the main issues, drivers, and potential shocks, then assess both specified and general resilience. The current state of the system is a consequence of changes in resou...
Chapter
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Accelerated global changes in climate, environment, and social–ecological systems demand a transformation in human perceptions of our place in nature and patterns of resource use. The biology and culture of Homo sapiens evolved for about 95% of our species’ history in hunting-and-gathering societies before the emergence of settled agriculture. We h...
Chapter
Drylands cover 40% of the terrestrial surface (Table 8.1, Plate 6) and are characterized by high ecological and cultural diversity. Although they are, by definition, of low productivity, they have been a source of biotic, social, and scientific innovation. A third of the global biodiversity hotspots are in drylands, with a diversity of large mammal...
Article
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Newcomers and exotic livestoc have displaced indigenous hunter-gatherers from Australia's drylands over the past 200 yr. This paper seeks to learn from and explain the adaptive process involving the initially naïve newcomers, their stock, and Australia's ancient landscapes. We review pastoral adaptation at the national, regional, and enterprise sca...
Article
Models to support decisions on rangeland policy must address the close links between ecological, economic, and social processes, and the adaptation of participants through time. We used an agent-based modeling approach to implement a parsimonious conceptual model of rangelands that included biophysical processes central to the functioning of rangel...
Article
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"We tested the explanatory usefulness and policy relevance of Holling's (2001) 'adaptive cycle' theory in exploring processes of 'collapse,' also called 'release,' and recovery in regional socialecological systems (SESs) in Zimbabwe and Australia. We found that the adaptive cycle is useful in recognizing changes in system behavior during the variou...
Article
We explore the response of pastoralists to rangeland resource variation in time and space, focusing on regions where high variation makes it unlikely that an economically viable herd can be maintained on a single management unit. In such regions, the need to move stock to find forage in at least some years has led to the evolution of nomadism and t...
Article
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"Approaches to natural resource management are often based on a presumed ability to predict probabilistic responses to management and external drivers such as climate. They also tend to assume that the manager is outside the system being managed. However, where the objectives include long-term sustainability, linked social-ecological systems (SESs)...
Chapter
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A project in the rangelands of New South Wales, Australia, promoted change towards sustainable land use. Sustainability was equated with 'resilience', defined as the capacity of a system to persist through disturbances such as drought and the collapse of commodity prices. The rangeland region was seen as an evolving social-ecological system, charac...
Chapter
This publication consists of 22 papers which cover 18 different subject areas representing the most up-to-date description of the state of the art in the global rangeland situation.
Article
Full-text available
Resilience is the magnitude of disturbance that can be tolerated before a socioecological system (SES) moves to a different region of state space controlled by a different set of processes. Resilience has multiple levels of meaning: as a metaphor related to sustainability, as a property of dynamic models, and as a measurable quantity that can be as...
Article
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We analyse historical changes in the pastoral system of western New South Wales. As this social-ecological system evolved from its establishment in the mid 19 th century it has been subjected to environmental, social and economic disturbances, and the threats and new opportunities these bring. Humans have adapted to these disturbances at local, reg...
Article
This paper describes an adaptive agent model of rangelands based on concepts of complex adaptive systems. The behavioural and biological processes of pastoralists, regulators, livestock, grass and shrubs are modelled as well as the interactions between these components. The evolution of the rangeland system is studied under different policy and ins...
Article
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There are disagreements among pastoralists, researchers, management agencies and other users of rangeland resources about how rangeland systems work, and how they should be valued, used and managed. The psychological concept of mental models helps explain how individuals and groups come to view the same ecological system so differently, and why com...
Article
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Hypotheses about the relative productivities and impacts of current and officially recommended stocking rates were tested in a case study in southern Africa. They support the view that biased measurements of livestock productivity and inappropriate measurements of rangeland degradation can lead to under-estimates of the productivity of African comm...
Article
"A useful debate is developing over carrying capacity and the degradation of communal rangelands in sub-Saharan Africa. With a few lonely exceptions, scientists and policy-makers have in the past claimed that degradation is universal and livestock productivity lowered because of overstocking on communal range. This position has been mainly dogmatic...
Article
Recommendations from research and extension agencies are often ignored by farmers. One reason is the inappropriateness of many recommendations. Failure to incorporate farmers requirements at an early stage in research is a major reason for the inappropriateness of the recommendations. This paper describes an approach to the rapid appraisal of land...
Article
Communal rangeland management policies in Botswana and Zimbabwe are based on incorrect technical assumptions about the stability of semiarid rangeland, the nature of rangeland degradation, and the benefits of destocking. Consequently, inappropriate policies, stressing the need to destock and stabilise the rangelands, are pursued. Acknowledgement of...
Article
Agroforestry is seen by many as a solution to environmental problems and a sustainable enterprise especially suited to resource poor farmers. Is agroforestry amenable to economic analysis? Have we any basis for making rational decisions as to promoting agroforestry? Especially, can the perceived advantages of agroforestry - better use of resources,...
Article
The erosion of rangeland soils is a widespread problem in Africa. Yet, there are few methods for estimating its rate. Using data from 2 catchments in Botswana, a technique for estimating erosion and sediment yield is demonstrated. It involves low level photographic sampling of vegetation cover, kriging to interpolate percentage cover from sample po...
Technical Report
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Remittances earned in mines are being invested in cattle. Their numbers have been increasing while traditional institutions for regulating their distribution have degenerated. However many households still have less than the minimum herd size needed for subsistence. We propose the establishment of defined areas allocated to specified groups of peop...
Article
A method of estimating the quantity of biomass in the ground layer of semi-arid rangeland is described and applied to a region of 700 km2 in Botswana. Vertical true colour diapositives, each covering approximately 60 × 90 m, were taken at 1 km intervals from a light aircraft flying at about 120 m above the ground along transects 1·6 km apart. The r...
Article
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New ideas about conserving wildlife are emerging to compete with conventional national park policies. But methods of analyzing wildlife conservation problems in Africa are inadequate for the analysis of complex issues of policy. Much of the analysis of conservation policy attempts to be apolitical on issues charged with social conflict. Analyses ar...
Article
How can researchers receive, store, integrate, overlay, rescale, analyse and model, update and display the types and amounts of information required for studies of livestock systems? Geographical Information Systems (GIS) have been designed to deal with this kind of problem. The purpose was to define ILCA's requirements for this type of data-base,...
Article
Natural resource assessment is traditionally of a long-term nature. This paper examines some of the underlying assumptions and proxy measures involved in their rapid appraisal. Three case studies on soil colour, plant indicators and soil erosion illustrate a range of possibilities in using ecological and environmental indicators to appraise aspects...
Technical Report
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There are large populations of seasonally mobile wildlife within the region, which also contains large areas of relatively fertile land, two perennial rivers and a rather sparse human population. Human numbers will increase over time to occupy all the arable soils for subsistence and commercial agriculture. As humans encroach on wildlife habitats,...
Article
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The Ecosystem Services Project focuses on the values and opportunities that come from the relationships between people and their natural environments. The quality of these relationships is thought to be decreasing as ecosystems change worldwide. This national project seeks to convey an understanding of the services and benefits that we receive from...
Article
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Can the pattern of land use in a catchment be changed so that the net benefits to society are increased? If so, how would changing to the new pattern of land use affect the distribution of benefits and costs among stakeholders? Tools for answering these questions must be able to model biophysical processes in time and space, link these models to fa...

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