Rowing social-ecological systems: morals, culture and resilience

University dissertation from Stockholm : Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University

Abstract: The shift from management and governance of ecosystems to relational complex adaptive social-ecological systems (SES) emphasizes a dynamic and integrated humans-in-nature perspective. Such a shift also needs to investigate how diversity and differences in cultures and morals relate to the existence of SES. The papers of this thesis relate these dimensions to SES resilience theory. Paper I analyzes cultural and landscape ecological aspects of trees and tree planting in Androy, Madagascar. Culturally, planting trees serves as a symbol of renewal, purification, agreement and boundary-making. Ecologically, planting trees contributes to the generation of ecosystem services in an otherwise fragmented landscape. Paper II tests the role of forest patches for generating pollination services to local beans that constitute an important protein staple in Androy. The results indicate a significant effect of insect pollination on bean yields and a strong spatial pattern of locating bean plots closer to forests than expected by chance, improving rural food security. Paper III addresses the adaptive capacity of the indigenous forest management in Androy with regard to religious and climatic drivers of change. Paper IV is concerned with cultural analysis of the robustness of provisioning ecosystem services in Androy and the interdependence of morality, cultural practices and generated ecosystem services. Paper V explores how social-ecological memory (SEM) can be seen both as a source of inertia and path dependence and a source of adaptive capacity for renewal and reorganization in the emerging theory about social-ecological systems. Paper VI analyses the film Avatar and discusses ethical–epistemic obligations of researchers as cross-scale knowledge brokers in emerging forms of global environmental politics. The thesis has interdependencies between the social and the ecological and shown that cultural and moral analyses bring important insights and challenges to resilience thinking.