Forest landscapes as social-ecological systems and implications for management

TitleForest landscapes as social-ecological systems and implications for management
Publication TypeJournal Article
Year of Publication2018
AuthorsFischer, AP
JournalLandscape and Urban Planning
Start Page138
KeywordsComplex adaptive systems, Forests Landscapes, Governance networks, Scale mismatch, Social-ecological systems, technical reports and journal articles

Many of the most pressing threats to forests result from complex interactions between multiple stressors and require management on large spatial and temporal scales. For this reason, many ecosystem managers have begun to recognize the need to consider the broader context of decisions, and how outcomes of past, present and future decisions in one location may interact with outcomes of such decisions in other locations nearby. The landscape has been put forth as an appropriate unit for such holistic approaches to management. However, as there are differing definitions of landscapes, it can be difficult to develop frameworks for management. Moreover, many definitions do not fully account for the many ways social and ecological conditions and processes interact within landscapes. Building on emerging theoretical and empirical literature, I offer a perspective on temperate forest landscapes as social-ecological systems: nested sets of coevolving social and natural subsystems connected through feedbacks, time lags, and cross-scale interactions. This interdisciplinary framing emphasizes the biogeophysical and socio-cultural influences on landscapes and the need to consider these influences – and the interactions among them – in management. I discuss challenges to managing forest landscapes as social-ecological systems that stem from mismatches in the temporal and spatial scales on which ecological and social systems typically function, as well as opportunities for policies, formal organizations, and governance networks.