Mark Brunson - Managing for social-ecological resilience: A dimly lit path to a bright future?
For 20+ years we have heard that forest ecosystem management requires adopting strategies that are ecologically sustainable, economically feasible, and socially acceptable. This implies that forests actually are more than ecosystems, and should be managed as social-ecological systems. Yet forest management often has failed to incorporate the social side of the equation. Partly this may reflect biases inherent in natural science education, but more so it derives from a poor understanding of how to link social and ecological systems in quantitatively measurable ways. As a result, societal concerns have been treated largely as constraints to economically or ecologically driven management.
The emergence of resilience as a guiding concept in environmental management may offer a path toward better-integrated analysis and planning. While the term “resilience” was applied to humans long before it became associated with ecosystems, discussions of resilience in natural resource management have until recently tended to focus on the latter, again because we didn’t yet know how to account for the human component. Recent advances have begun to resolve this knowledge shortfall. Ecologists and social scientists are collaborating to study the complexities of social-ecological systems in ways that account more explicitly for processes that link system components, and give special attention to “surprise” events that disrupt equilibrium and require adaptive responses.
In this presentation I offer a framework for thinking about how social-economic and biological-physical systems are linked at both large and local scales in a context of forest decision-making. Using a case study of post-fire re-seeding in the Great Basin, I will explore how the framework may offer a lens through which to look for “leverage points” where managers can influence intra-system linkages and enhance resilience to unexpected rates or directions of change.