Ecology and Society
We start the paper (Section II) with a description of a few properties of ecosystems that haveimplications for human use and management. Next we discuss the lack of fit between conventionalmanagement and ecosystem properties (Section III)and the social and economic causes behind ecosystem deterioration (Section IV). Followingthat are some real-world examples of institutions for ecological management and some socialmechanisms that seem to provide an institutional fit to ecosystem processes and functions (Section V).Thereafter we discuss adaptive management and theissue of nested institutions for environmentalmanagement (Section VI). We end the paper by proposing a few research challenges in relation tothe problem of fit between ecosystems and institutions (Section VII).
The perspective of the human system as a dominantsubsystem raised in the introduction in the 1998paper has expanded and become a high-prioritysystems issue in the research literature on naturalresource management, climate change, andsustainability. We have learned that we now live inthe era of the Anthropocene (Crutzen and Stoermer2000) in which Earth system processes from localto global scales are strongly shaped by humanity (e.g., Steffen et al. 2004, Foley et al. 2005). As isenvisaged by the discussions in the climate changedomain, a further and now stronger scientific basis
exists, not the least codified by the Intergovernmental
Panel of Climate Change (IPCC), after the pastdecade for the importance of the human driver ingreenhouse gas phenomena and their relationshipto global change. Based on such insights, thebalance of focus between mitigation and adaptationhas also started to shift, through, for example, thework of the Tyndall Centre in the UK. Much morehas now been said on the globalization phenomenain relation to local situations, includingsocioeconomic drivers of change (e.g., Lambin etal. 2003, Berkes et al. 2006), but the dominant work on economic and social globalization still lacks theconnection to the biosphere and ecosystem capacity.The scaling issue has been further elaborated upon,both in general and in terms of a stronger focus onthe regional level, not least in terms of “bestpractices worldwide.” Institutional research inrelation to natural resource and ecosystemmanagement has continued its progress (e.g., Younget al. 2007). Overall, progress has been made on thefit problem, although the bulk of research on societaldevelopment, sustainable development, and humanfutures still treats social and ecological systems aslargely separate entities. We plea for a moreintegrated view to confront the challenges of globalchange. Below we will expand on these items andothers whenever they appear through writings in the“old” text.
II. PROPERTIES OF ECOSYSTEMS THATHAVE IMPLICATIONS FORINSTITUTIONS
An ecosystem consists of plants, animals, and microorganisms that live in biological communitiesand which interact with each other and with the physical and chemical environment, with adjacent ecosystems, and with the water cycle and theatmosphere (Odum 1989). Ecosystem propertiesthat have implications for institutions are related toenergy and material stocks and flows, the temporaland spatial variability of those resources, and thecomplex and dynamic ways in which the underlying processes relate to one another, with ecologicaldisturbance playing an especially important role.
Ecosystems as life-support systems
Ecological systems play a fundamental role insupporting life on Earth at all hierarchical scales.They are essential in global material cycles like thecarbon and water cycles. Ecosystems producerenewable resources (food, fiber, timber, etc.) and ecological services. For example, a fish in the seais produced by a marine food web of plants, animals,and microorganisms. The fish is a part of theecological system in which it is produced, and theinteractions that produce and sustain the fish areinherently complex. Ecological services are also
generated by ecosystems; these include maintenance
of the composition of the atmosphere, ameliorationof climate variability, flood control and drinkingwater supply, waste assimilation, nutrient recycling,soil generation, crop pollination, pest regulation, food provision, biodiversity maintenance, and alsomaintenance of the scenery of the landscape,recreational sites, and aesthetic and amenity values(Ehrlich and Mooney 1983, Folke 1991, de Groot 1992, Daily 1997). Natural systems at genetic,species, population, and ecosystem levels allcontribute in maintaining these functions and services.