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


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.

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

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Correspondence to Berta Martín-López.

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Handled by Kai M A Chan, The University of British Columbia, Canada.

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Martín-López, B., Montes, C. Restoring the human capacity for conserving biodiversity: a social–ecological approach. Sustain Sci 10, 699–706 (2015). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11625-014-0283-3

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