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Integrating Ecological and Social Knowledge: Learning from CHANS Research

Bruce Shindler, Department of Forest Ecosystems & Society, Oregon State University
Thomas A. Spies, USDA Forest Service Pacific Northwest Research Station, Corvallis, Oregon
John P Bolte, Department of Biological & Ecological Engineering, Oregon State University
Jeffrey D. Kline, USDA Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Corvallis, Oregon


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Scientists are increasingly called upon to integrate across ecological and social disciplines to tackle complex coupled human and natural system (CHANS) problems. Integration of these disciplines is challenging and many scientists do not have experience with large integrated research projects. However, much can be learned about the complicated process of integration from such efforts. We document some of these lessons from a National Science Foundation-funded CHANS project (Forests, People, Fire) and present considerations for developing and engaging in coupled human and natural system projects. Certainly we are not the first to undertake this endeavor, and many of our findings complement those of other research teams. We focus here on the process of coming together, learning to work as an integrated science team, and describe the challenges and opportunities of engaging stakeholders (agency personnel and citizen communities of interests) in our efforts. Throughout this project our intention was to foster dialogue among diverse interests and, thus, incorporate this knowledge into uncovering primary social and ecological drivers of change. A primary tool was an agent-based model, Envision, that used this information in landscape simulation, visualization models, and scenario development. Although integration can be an end in itself, the proof of value in the approach can be the degree to which it provides new insights or tools to CHANS, including closer interaction among multiple stakeholders, that could not have been reached without it.

Key words

agent-based models; CHANS; coupled human and natural systems; integrating ecological-social knowledge; interdisciplinary teams; lessons learned

Copyright © 2017 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087