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A systematic review of participatory scenario planning to envision mountain social-ecological systems futures

Jessica P. R. Thorn, Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO USA; York Institute of Tropical Ecosystems, Department of Environment and Geography, University of York, York, UK; African Climate and Development Initiative, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa
Julia A. Klein, Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO USA
Cara Steger, Graduate Degree Program in Ecology, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO USA; Natural Resource Ecology Laboratory, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO USA; Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO USA
Kelly A. Hopping, Human-Environment Systems, Boise State University, Boise, ID USA
Claudia Capitani, York Institute of Tropical Ecosystems, Department of Environment and Geography, University of York, York, UK
Catherine M. Tucker, Department of Anthropology, University of Florida, Gainesville, FL USA
Anne W. Nolin, University of Nevada, Reno, NV USA
Robin S. Reid, Department of Ecosystem Science and Sustainability, Colorado State University, Fort Collins, CO USA
Roman Seidl, Leibniz University Hannover, Institute for Radioecology and Radiation Protection
Vishwas S. Chitale, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development, Kathmandu, Nepal
Robert Marchant, York Institute of Tropical Ecosystems, Department of Environment and Geography, University of York, York, UK

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-11608-250306

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Abstract

Mountain social-ecological systems (MtSES) provide crucial ecosystem services to over half of humanity. However, populations living in these highly varied regions are now confronted by global change. It is critical that they are able to anticipate change to strategically manage resources and avoid potential conflict. Yet, planning for sustainable, equitable transitions for the future is a daunting task, considering the range of uncertainties and the unique character of MtSES. Participatory scenario planning (PSP) can help MtSES communities by critically reflecting on a wider array of innovative pathways for adaptive transformation. Although the design of effective approaches has been widely discussed, how PSP has been employed in MtSES has yet to be examined. Here, we present the first systematic global review of single- and multiscalar, multisectoral PSP undertaken in MtSES, in which we characterize the process, identify strengths and gaps, and suggest effective ways to apply PSP in MtSES. We used a nine-step process to help guide the analysis of 42 studies from 1989 screened articles. Our results indicate a steady increase in relevant studies since 2006, with 43% published between 2015 and 2017. These studies encompass 39 countries, with over 50% in Europe. PSP in MtSES is used predominantly to build cooperation, social learning, collaboration, and decision support, yet meeting these objectives is hindered by insufficient engagement with intended end users. MtSES PSP has focused largely on envisioning themes of governance, economy, land use change, and biodiversity, but has overlooked themes such as gender equality, public health, and sanitation. There are many avenues to expand and improve PSP in MtSES: to other regions, sectors, across a greater diversity of stakeholders, and with a specific focus on MtSES paradoxes. Communicating uncertainty, monitoring and evaluating impacts, and engendering more comparative approaches can further increase the utility of PSP for addressing MtSES challenges, with lessons for other complex social-ecological systems.

Key words

alpine; adaptive transformation; coupled natural-human systems; highlands; montane; planetary boundaries; stewardship; sustainability science; transdisciplinary

Copyright © 2020 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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