Sustainability Science

, Volume 10, Issue 4, pp 699–706 | Cite as

Restoring the human capacity for conserving biodiversity: a social–ecological approach

  • Berta Martín-López
  • Carlos Montes
Note and Comment


Achieving biodiversity targets will require acknowledging that human societies are highly interconnected with the biophysical life-support system, conforming social–ecological systems. Under the social–ecological systems framework, we recognize that human wellbeing depends, in part, upon ecosystems; additionally, biodiversity conservation depends on human behavior and governance. Precisely, under the social–ecological systems paradigm, three conservation challenges emerge: (1) to recognize the value pluralism of biodiversity in science and decision-making, (2) to acknowledge that social–ecological systems require institutional diversity to be managed effectively, and (3) to go beyond scientific disciplines towards a real transdisciplinary science. In this context, sustainability science emerges as the body of knowledge able to understand the complex interactions of social-ecological systems. Consequently, we argue that the current challenge of biodiversity conservation needs to be addressed through the operationalization of sustainability science along the three lines above.


Ecosystem services Institutions Local ecological knowledge Social–ecological systems Sustainability science Value-pluralism 



The authors are grateful to Kai Chan for his inspiring and constructive comments.


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© Springer Japan 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Social-Ecological Systems Laboratory, Department of Ecology, Edificio de BiologíaUniversidad Autónoma de MadridMadridSpain

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