Biodiversity and Conservation

, Volume 19, Issue 10, pp 2843–2853 | Cite as

Dynamic properties of complex adaptive ecosystems: implications for the sustainability of service provision

  • Terence P. Dawson
  • Mark D. A. Rounsevell
  • Tatiana Kluvánková-Oravská
  • Veronika Chobotová
  • Andrew Stirling
Original Paper

Abstract

Predicting environmental change and its impacts on ecosystem goods and services at local to global scales remains a significant challenge for the international scientific community. This is due largely to the fact that the Earth is made up of open, coupled, complex, interactive and non-linear dynamic systems that are inherently unpredictable. Uncertainties over interactions and feedbacks between natural and human drivers of environmental change (operating at different spatial and temporal scales) can compound intrinsic intractable difficulties faced by plural societies aiming at sustainable management of ecosystems. Social-Ecological Systems (SES) theory addresses these strongly coupled and complex characteristics of social and ecological systems. It can provide a useful framework for articulating contrasting drivers and pressures on ecosystems and associated service provision, spanning different temporalities and provenances. Here, system vulnerabilities (defined as exposure to threats affecting ability of an SES to cope in delivering relevant functions), can arise from both endogenous and exogenous factors across multiple time-scales. Vulnerabilities may also take contrasting forms, ranging from transient shocks or disruptions, through to chronic or enduring pressures. Recognising these diverse conditions, four distinct dynamic properties emerge (resilience, stability, durability and robustness), under which it is possible to maintain system function and, hence, achieve sustainability.

Keywords

Complex systems Dynamic processes Social-ecological systems Environmental change Ecosystem services Sustainability 

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Terence P. Dawson
    • 1
  • Mark D. A. Rounsevell
    • 2
  • Tatiana Kluvánková-Oravská
    • 3
  • Veronika Chobotová
    • 3
  • Andrew Stirling
    • 4
  1. 1.School of GeographyUniversity of SouthamptonHighfield, SouthamptonUK
  2. 2.Centre for the Study of Environmental Change & Sustainability, School of GeosciencesUniversity of EdinburghEdinburghUK
  3. 3.Institute for Forecasting, Slovak Academy of SciencesBratislavaSlovak Republic
  4. 4.Science & Technology Policy Research (SPRU)University of SussexBrightonUK

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