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Putting the "E" in SES: unpacking the ecology in the Ostrom social-ecological system framework

Jessica M. Vogt, The Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Indiana University Bloomington; Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, Furman University
Graham B. Epstein, School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA), Indiana University Bloomington; The Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Indiana University Bloomington
Sarah K. Mincey, Integrated Program in the Environment, Indiana University Bloomington; Indiana University Research and Teaching Preserve; Center for the Study of Institutions, Population and Environmental Change (CIPEC), Indiana University Bloomington; The Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Indiana University Bloomington; School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA), Indiana University Bloomington
Burnell C. Fischer, The Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Indiana University Bloomington; School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA), Indiana University Bloomington; Center for the Study of Institutions, Population and Environmental Change (CIPEC), Indiana University Bloomington
Paul McCord, Center for the Study of Institutions, Population and Environmental Change (CIPEC), Indiana University Bloomington; Department of Geography, Indiana University Bloomington; The Vincent and Elinor Ostrom Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, Indiana University Bloomington

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-07239-200155

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Abstract

The Ostrom social-ecological system (SES) framework offers an interdisciplinary tool for studies of linked human-natural systems. However, its origin in the social sciences belies the effectiveness of its interdisciplinary ambitions and undermines its ability to cope with ecological complexity. To narrow the gap between inherently dynamic ecological systems and the SES framework, we need to explicitly recognize that SES outcomes are coproduced by social systems in which choices are made, as well as an ecological system with a diverse assortment of dynamic natural processes that mediate the effect of those choices. We illustrate the need for more explicit incorporation of ecological attributes into the SES framework by presenting a case study of a community-managed forest in Indiana, USA. A preliminary set of ecological attributes are also proposed for inclusion in the SES framework with the aim of spurring interest in further development of a truly interdisciplinary framework for the study of SESs.

Key words

ecological theory; forest ecology; interdisciplinary science; linked human-natural systems; social-ecological system framework

Copyright © 2015 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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