, Volume 7, Issue 2, pp 161-171

Integrating Social Science into the Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network: Social Dimensions of Ecological Change and Ecological Dimensions of Social Change

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Abstract

The integration of the social sciences into long-term ecological research is an urgent priority. To address this need, a group of social, earth, and life scientists associated with the National Science Foundation’s (NSF) Long-Term Ecological Research (LTER) Network have articulated a conceptual framework for understanding the human dimensions of ecological change for the LTER Network. This framework explicitly advocates that what is often divided into “natural” and human systems be considered a single, complex social-ecological system (SES). In this paper, we propose a list of core social science research areas, concepts, and questions; identify the need for multiscale investigatory frameworks crucial for implementing integrated research; and suggest practical approaches for integration. In sum, this paper is a general outline for empirical and cross-site research projects where investigators agree that bringing together social, biological, and earth scientists can lead to synthetic approaches and a unified understanding of the mechanisms regulating SES. Although the motivation for this goal is specific to the LTER Network and similar projects, we believe that the issues and ideas presented here are widely applicable to other interdisciplinary SES studies.