Integrated understanding To better address global sustainability challenges

People and nature are inextricably linked...

To overcome global sustainability challenges, social and ecological sciences need to be integrated into research to provide a better understanding of systems involving people and natural resources as a whole, rather than looking at it as a one-way model.

Researchers from CEED and 19 other institutions conducted a systematic literature review to examine the conceptual, methodological, disciplinary, and functional aspects of social-ecological integration.

They found that integration is still lacking in social-ecological research.

Some social variables considered important for addressing sustainability challenges are uncommon in social-ecological studies, e.g., culture, politics, and power.

The team found some disciplines like ecology, urban studies, and geography had better integration than sociology, biology, and public administration. In addition to ecology and urban studies, biodiversity conservation provides vital knowledge in integrating other disciplines into social-ecological research. Studies founded on systems theory have the highest rates of integration.

Highly integrative studies combine different types of tools, involve stakeholders at appropriate stages, and tend to deliver practical recommendations.

Better social-ecological integration must underpin sustainability science.
To achieve this, the authors recommend future social-ecological research will require greater attention to the following:
  • the interdisciplinary composition of project teams
  • strategic stakeholder involvement
  • application of multiple tools
  • incorporation of both social and ecological variables
  • consideration of bidirectional relationships between variables
  • identification of implications and articulation of clear policy recommendations

Authors: Angela M. Guerrero, Nathan J. Bennett, Kerrie A. Wilson, Neil Carter, David Gill, Morena Mills, Christopher D. Ives, Matthew J. Selinske, Cecilia Larrosa, Sarah Bekessy, Fraser A. Januchowski-Hartley, Henry Travers, Carina A. Wyborn, Ana Nuno.

  • School of Biological Sciences, The University of Queensland
  • Luc Hoffmann Institute
  • ARC Centre of Excellence for Environmental Decisions
  • Institute for Resources, Environment and Sustainability, University of British Columbia
  • University of Nice Sophia Antipolis
  • Center for Ocean Solutions, Stanford University
  • Human-Environment Systems Center, Boise State University
  • National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC)
  • Nicholas School of the Environment, Duke University
  • Department of Life Sciences, Imperial College London
  • Centre for Biodiversity and Conservation Science, The University of Queensland
  • School of Geography, University of Nottingham
  • Interdisciplinary Conservation Science Research Group, School of Global, Urban and Social Studies, RMIT University
  • Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science, Department of Zoology, University of Oxford
  • Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore
  • Université Montpellier, Montpellier, France
  • Department of Biosciences, College of Science, Swansea University
  • College of Forestry and Conservation, University of Montana
  • Centre for Ecology and Conservation, College of Life and Environmental Sciences, University of Exeter


Created with images by Martin Adams - "Good Morning LA!" • Joel Vodell - "Nature’s Grid" • Jeff Qian - "Sowing Sunflower"

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