Adaptability of social-ecological systems
Environmental knowledge, learning and governance on small islands from a complexity theory perspective. The Caribbean as a case study
Prof. Dr. Beate M.W. Ratter, Lars Bomhauer-Beins MSc
Duration: 2015 - 2019
This project is funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG). Understanding how coastal and island social-ecological systems are and can be resilient to change and stressors remains a challenge. Coastal and island ecosystems are among the most valuable and productive, yet, are highly threatened worldwide. Small islands can be perceived as complex and sensitive social-ecological systems. They are commonly regarded as particularly vulnerable to global change, external shocks and internal impacts of the socio-ecological interplay although success stories of small island economies can be told. Many “Small Island Developing States” (SIDS) face a number of global climate change risks which threaten a sustainable development process. In the Caribbean, small island coastal ecosystems provide both direct and indirect use values. E.g. indirect ecosystem services of coral reefs, sea grass beds and coastal mangroves include the protection of coastlines against wave action and beach erosion, as well as the preservation of habitat for species of commercial and natural importance. Human activity threatens the regenerative capacity of these inshore marine ecosystems. This holds true for the archipelago of The Bahamas which will serve as a case study of the project. The management of a complex, constantly changing social-ecological system demands a wide range of knowledge, which is why knowledge production, learning and uncertainty play key roles when it comes to developing policies for resilient system dynamics.
The project’s objectives are to analyze how individuals and society respond to natural pressures and stressors, and how risk and environmental knowledge are produced and employed to strengthen adaptability and social-ecological resilience. We examine knowledge exchange processes across various scales from international to local. Specifically, focus will be put on the interrelations of trans-local expert knowledge and local lay knowledge as well as on the role that hybrid forms of knowledge play in specific contexts.
Furthermore, we consider different modes of communication and learning processes which influence an adaptive environmental and risk management. The results hopefully can contribute to an improvement of adaptive and participatory modes of social-ecological systems governance.
Further project information.