Policy interest in socio‐ecological systems has driven attempts to define and map socio‐ecological zones (SEZs), that is, spatial regions, distinguishable by their conjoined social and bio‐geo‐physical characteristics. The state of Idaho, USA, has a strong need for SEZ designations because of potential conflicts between rapidly increasing and impactful human populations, and proximal natural ecosystems. Our Idaho SEZs address analytical shortcomings in previously published SEZs by: (1) considering potential biases of clustering methods, (2) cross‐validating SEZ classifications, (3) measuring the relative importance of bio‐geo‐physical and social system predictors, and (4) considering spatial autocorrelation. We obtained authoritative bio‐geo‐physical and social system datasets for Idaho, aggregated into 5‐km grids = 25 km2, and decomposed these using principal components analyses (PCAs). PCA scores were classified using two clustering techniques commonly used in SEZ mapping: hierarchical clustering with Ward's linkage, and k‐means analysis. Classification evaluators indicated that eight‐ and five‐cluster solutions were optimal for the bio‐geo‐physical and social datasets for Ward's linkage, resulting in 31 SEZ composite types, and six‐ and five‐cluster solutions were optimal for k‐means analysis, resulting in 24 SEZ composite types. Ward's and k‐means solutions were similar for bio‐geo‐physical and social classifications with similar numbers of clusters. Further, both classifiers identified the same dominant SEZ composites. For rarer SEZs, however, classification methods strongly affected SEZ classifications, potentially altering land management perspectives. Our SEZs identify several critical regions of social–ecological overlap. These include suburban interface types and a high desert transition zone. Based on multinomial generalized linear models, bio‐geo‐physical information explained more variation in SEZs than social system data, after controlling for spatial autocorrelation, under both Ward's and k‐means approaches. Agreement (cross‐validation) levels were high for multinomial models with bio‐geo‐physical and social predictors for both Ward's and k‐means SEZs. A consideration of historical drivers, including indigenous social systems, and current trajectories of land and resource management in Idaho, indicates a strong need for rigorous SEZ designations to guide development and conservation in the region. Our analytical framework can be broadly applied in SES research and applied in other regions, when categorical responses—including cluster designations—have a spatial component.
The degree of coupling between the social and ecological components of social-ecological systems is seen as fundamental to understanding their functioning, interactions and trajectories. Yet, there is limited work about how to empirically understand the degree of coupling between social and ecological systems, nor the processes by which the degree of coupling could change over time. Here, we introduce a conceptual framework for characterizing trajectories over time of coupling and de-coupling in social-ecological river systems. We analyze two conceptual scenarios describing coupling and de-coupling trajectories in a social-ecological system and define a series of key concepts for understanding social-ecological system trajectories. We tested these coupling and de-coupling trajectories theory by linking these concepts to empirical case examples of two river social-ecological systems in the western United States. Finally, we propose a quantitative approach with the potential for evaluating the level of social-ecological coupling and de-coupling trajectories in other SES contexts. This paper represents an advancing on the identification of specific actions that explain current SES trajectories and immediate actions to reinforce or shift the trajectory.
Combining socio-cultural valuations of ecosystem services with ecological and monetary assessments is critical to informing decision making with an integrative and multi-pronged approach. This study examined di↵erences in the perceptions of ecosystem service supply and diversity across eight major ecosystem types in Spain and scrutinized the social and ecological factors shaping these perceptions. First, we implemented 1932 face-to-face questionnaires among local inhabitants to assess perceptions of ecosystem service supply. Second, we created an ecosystem service diversity index to measure the perceived diversity of services considering agroecosystems, Mediterranean mountains, arid systems, two aquatic continental systems, coastal ecosystems and two urban ecosystems. Finally, we examined the influence of biophysical, socio-demographic and institutional factors in shaping ecosystem service perceptions. Overall, cultural services were the most widely perceived, followed by provisioning and regulating services. Provisioning services were most strongly associated with agroecosystems, mountains and coastal systems, whereas cultural services were Land 2020, 9, 330; doi:10.3390/land9090330 www.mdpi.com/journal/land Land 2020, 9, 330 2 of 20 associated with urban ecosystems and regulating services were specifically linked with agroecosystems, mountains and urban recreational areas. The highest service diversity index values corresponded to agroecosystems, mountains and wetlands. Our results also showed that socio-demographic factors, such as place of origin (urban vs. rural) and educational level, as well as institutional factors, such as management and access regimes, shaped the perception of ecosystem services.
The social-ecological system (SES) approach is fundamental for addressing global change challenges and to developing sustainability science. Over the last two decades, much progress has been made in translating this approach from theory to practice, although the knowledge generated is still sparse and difficult to compare. To better understand how SESs function across time, space, and scales, coordinated, long-term SES research and monitoring strategies under a common analytical framework are needed. For this purpose, the collection of standard datasets is a cornerstone, but we are still far from identifying and agreeing on the common core set of variables that should be used. In this study, based on literature reviews, expert workshops, and researcher perceptions collected through online surveys, we developed a reference list of 60 variables for the characterization and monitoring of SESs. The variables were embedded in a conceptual framework structured in 13 dimensions that were distributed throughout the three main components of the SES: the social system, the ecological system, and the interactions between them. In addition, the variables were prioritized according to relevance and consensus criteria identified in the survey responses. Variable relevance was positively correlated with consensus across respondents. This study brings new perspectives to address existing barriers in operationalizing lists of variables in the study of SESs, such as the applicability for place-based research, the capacity to deal with SES complexity, and the feasibility for long-term monitoring of social-ecological dynamics. This study may constitute a preliminary step to identifying essential variables for SESs. It will contribute toward promoting the systematic collection of data around most meaningful aspects of the SESs and to enhancing comparability across place-based research and long-term monitoring of complex SESs, and therefore, the production of generalizable knowledge.
Conservation easements are the fastest growing private conservation strategy in the United States. However, mechanisms to assess private land conservation as well as their support by the general public are not well understood. This study uses the ecosystem services framework for assessing existing private lands in Idaho and identifies areas for future conservation easements. Using conservation targets of the land trust as a guide for selecting ecosystem services, we (a) mapped the spatial delivery of conservation targets across public and private lands, (b) explored public awareness in terms of social importance and vulnerability, and (c) mapped future priority areas by characterizing conservation bundles. We found that public lands provided the highest levels of conservation targets, and we found no difference in conservation target provision between private areas and conservation easements. The spatial characterization of conservation target bundles identified potential future priority areas for conservation easements, which can guide planning of land trust conservation efforts.
The American West exists in the popular imagination as a distinct region, and policies and politics often suggest that both the challenges and the opportunities for land management and human well-being across the region are relatively homogeneous. In this paper, we argue that there are key characteristics that define the West as a social-ecological region, and also that there are myriad social-ecological systems (SESs) within the region that require diverse and dynamic approaches to managing change over time. We first conceptualize aridity, topography, and a unique political economy of land as exogenous factors that persist over time and space to define the American West as a contiguous social-ecological region. We then identify a second set of characteristics that show high degrees of variation across SESs within the American West. Finally, we operationalize the relationships between regional characteristics and local dynamics through a set of case studies that exemplify specific types of SESs in the region. The results of these empirical representations of the regional and intra-regional social-ecological dynamics of the contemporary American West highlight the implications for research and management of taking a cross-scale integrated approach to address pressing social-ecological opportunities and challenges in complex adaptive systems.
Sustainability science recognizes the importance of the integrated assessment of the ecological and social systems in land-use planning. However, most studies so far have been conceptual rather than empirical. We developed a framework to characterize the social-ecological systems heterogeneity according to its functioning through the identification of social–ecological functional types (SEFT). The SEFT framework builds on the plant, ecosystem and agent functional type approaches, taking a step forward to integrate the dimensions of social–ecological systems into an operational product to characterize administrative units in a hierarchical way. To illustrate this novel framework, we described the heterogeneity of SEFT in the Argentine Chaco by clustering administrative entities. This area is a global deforestation hotspot and has diverse social actors that harness ecosystem services in multiple, and sometimes contrasting and conflictive, ways which determines an urgent need for land-use planning. We combined data from national census and remote sensing to identify SEFT by clustering census tracts based on 17 input variables that integrate key human, ecological and interaction processes across landscapes. We identified three classes and eight subclasses of SEFT. Ecological variables defined the first level of heterogeneity (classes), while human variables and the variables of interactions between the human and ecological components defined a second level of heterogeneity (subclasses). The degree of anthropization and mean annual productivity were important variables to explain the first two axes in the ordination (32% of the total variance). This framework offers a conceptually novel and comprehensive approach to understand the spatial heterogeneity of social–ecological systems functioning, which could play a pivotal role to support conservation or land-use planning in rural areas.
The Monteith´s model offers an attractive alternative to describe the service that regulates the carbon gains by ecosystems at regional and global scales, clearly an important question in assessing Global Change. This approach estimates net primary productivity (NPP) from photosynthetically active solar radiation (PAR), the fraction of PAR absorbed by vegetation (fPAR), and the light use efficiency (LUE) for species or ecosystems. PAR may be measured using radiometers and fPAR derived from spectral vegetation indices provided by remote sensors. LUE constitutes the most difficult term to estimate. In this chapter, we reviewed the approaches used to estimate LUE, the land cover types and levels of organization (i.e. from individuals to ecosystems) best represented by LUE estimates, and the effect of time interval of estimation in LUE. We found 125 articles on LUE estimation but only 97 provided quantitative LUE data representing different land cover types or levels of organization. LUE values were mostly determined using the Monteith´s model through remote sensing data. A small percentage of LUE estimations were based on biomass harvest estimates. LUE values were distinct according to the land cover types and the organizational level. In addition, we detected significant differences related to the time interval of LUE estimation (i.e. annual, seasonal or daily). A more thorough study of main LUE gaps will facilitate a global estimate of the service that regulates the carbon gains by ecosystems.
The regional controls of biodiversity patterns have been traditionally evaluated using structural and compositional components at the species level, but evaluation of the functional component at the ecosystem level is still scarce. During the last decades, the role of ecosystem functioning in management and conservation has increased. Our aim was to use satellite-derived Ecosystem Functional Types (EFTs, patches of the land-surface with similar carbon gain dynamics) to characterize the regional patterns of ecosystem functional diversity and to evaluate the environmental and human controls that determine EFT richness across natural and human-modified systems in temperate South America. The EFT identification was based on three descriptors of carbon gain dynamics derived from seasonal curves of the MODIS Enhanced Vegetation Index (EVI): annual mean (surrogate of primary production), seasonal coefficient of variation (indicator of seasonality) and date of maximum EVI (descriptor of phenology). As observed for species richness in the southern hemisphere, water availability, not energy, emerged as the main climatic driver of OPEN ACCESS Remote Sens. 2013, 5 128 EFT richness in natural areas of temperate South America. In anthropogenic areas, the role of both water and energy decreased and increasing human intervention increased richness at low levels of human influence, but decreased richness at high levels of human influence.
Challenges that humanity face in the Anthropocene require new conceptual frameworks to better understand the linkages and feedbacks between society and nature. The ecosystem services framework constitutes a powerful approach for understanding human dependence on both natural and societal capital. Currently, new operational frameworks are needed for integrating ecosystem service science into decision making processes oriented to sustainability and social-ecological resilience. Here we first propose a set of Essential Social-Ecological Variables to characterize key processes and functioning of social-ecological systems (SES) at multiple spatial scales. Second, we identify Socio-Ecosystem Functional Types (SEFTs) based on these variables. Third, we discuss the potential that SEFTs offer for mapping land patches with similar patterns of ecosystem services provision and demand, and discuss the variables used in their definition. We consider three key functional aspects for such characterization: 1) social and ecological processes that determine key functions in SES; 2) diversity and quantity of ecosystem services supply and demand; and 3) spatial connection between service providing units and beneficiary areas. We conducted a systematic literature review, workshops and an expert online survey for selecting Essential Social-Ecological Variables. As a result, a new conceptual SES framework that integrates interactions between biophysical and social processes is proposed. Then, to identify Socio-Ecosystem Functional Types, we applied on these variables a principal component analysis, unsupervised classifications and clustering. Each SEFT provides an integrative functional characterization of both the biophysical and human components of SES that can be applied for Earth system and ecosystem services modelling, and for monitoring sustainability in the Anthropocene.