Human beings and nature have been closely interconnected throughout history; they constitute a joint “social-ecological system”. Population growth, advances in technology, and urbanization are profoundly changing these systems around the globe.
Researchers at the Universities of Cape Town, Kassel, and Göttingen have developed a modelling framework for comparing the causes and consequences of these processes at different scales worldwide. The results have been published as a cover story in the scientific journal Nature.
For centuries, agrarian societies had to use their immediate surroundings in a manner that would ensure maximum sustainability because their very survival depended on it. However, urbanization and industrializa-tion have fundamentally changed the relationship between human beings and nature.
These changes are becoming increasingly significant as population and economic growth continue and accelerate worldwide. According to the team of authors, “new regulations and institutions are necessary in order to avoid overex-ploitation of natural resources.”
The framework that the authors propose can be used to compare social-ecological systems at various scales, such as individual households, land use systems, cities or entire nations. As long as sustainable use of an ecosystem stabilizes the social system and vice versa, this state is called a "loop".
In contrast, a "trap" is characterized by overexploitation and progressive degradation of the ecosystem, which can ultimately lead to the collapse of social order. In addition, the researchers distinguish between rural systems (green loop / green trap) and urban systems (red loop / red trap).
The authors use three case studies to illustrate this modelling framework: There is a wealth of data on agri-cultural and economic development in Sweden over the past 250 years, which provide evidence of a suc-cessful transition from a green loop to a red loop – in other words, from a balanced rural system to a bal-anced urban one.
In Niger, a country which at the start of the 1960s still relied on rural agro-pastoralism and displayed characteristics of a green loop, population growth and urbanization are increasingly leading to a green trap. In the greater Beijing area, in recent decades one of the most rapidly expanding agglomerations worldwide, there are indications of an ecological crisis that could turn the city from a red loop into a red trap unless corrective action is taken soon.
“To understand changes in social-ecological systems we need to develop interdisciplinary theories of inter-dependent ecological and social processes,” the researchers explain. “Only with such theories will we be able to recognize decisive changes in time and intervene in a manner that is ecologically sustainable and socially just in the long term.”
The English-language magazine Nature is one of the world’s most highly regarded scientific journals.
Original publication: Graeme S. Cumming, Andreas Buerkert, Ellen M. Hoffmann, Eva Schlecht, Stephan von Cramon-Taubadel and Teja Tscharntke. Implications of agricultural transitions and urbanization for ecosystem services. Nature 2014. DOI: 10.1038/nature13945.
Prof. Dr. Andreas Bürkert
Steinstraße 19, 37213 Witzenhausen,
Telefon (05542) 98-1228 oder -1251
Prof. Dr. Stephan von Cramon-Taubadel
Department für Agrarökonomie und Rurale Entwicklung
Lehrstuhl für Agrarpolitik
Platz der Göttinger Sieben 5
37073 Göttingen, Telefon (0551) 39-22872
Sebastian Mense | idw - Informationsdienst Wissenschaft
Alkaline soil, sensible sensor
03.08.2017 | American Society of Agronomy
New 3-D model predicts best planting practices for farmers
26.06.2017 | Carl R. Woese Institute for Genomic Biology, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
Whether you call it effervescent, fizzy, or sparkling, carbonated water is making a comeback as a beverage. Aside from quenching thirst, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have discovered a new use for these "bubbly" concoctions that will have major impact on the manufacturer of the world's thinnest, flattest, and one most useful materials -- graphene.
As graphene's popularity grows as an advanced "wonder" material, the speed and quality at which it can be manufactured will be paramount. With that in mind,...
Physicists at the University of Bonn have managed to create optical hollows and more complex patterns into which the light of a Bose-Einstein condensate flows. The creation of such highly low-loss structures for light is a prerequisite for complex light circuits, such as for quantum information processing for a new generation of computers. The researchers are now presenting their results in the journal Nature Photonics.
Light particles (photons) occur as tiny, indivisible portions. Many thousands of these light portions can be merged to form a single super-photon if they are...
For the first time, scientists have shown that circular RNA is linked to brain function. When a RNA molecule called Cdr1as was deleted from the genome of mice, the animals had problems filtering out unnecessary information – like patients suffering from neuropsychiatric disorders.
While hundreds of circular RNAs (circRNAs) are abundant in mammalian brains, one big question has remained unanswered: What are they actually good for? In the...
An experimental small satellite has successfully collected and delivered data on a key measurement for predicting changes in Earth's climate.
The Radiometer Assessment using Vertically Aligned Nanotubes (RAVAN) CubeSat was launched into low-Earth orbit on Nov. 11, 2016, in order to test new...
A study led by scientists of the Max Planck Institute for the Structure and Dynamics of Matter (MPSD) at the Center for Free-Electron Laser Science in Hamburg presents evidence of the coexistence of superconductivity and “charge-density-waves” in compounds of the poorly-studied family of bismuthates. This observation opens up new perspectives for a deeper understanding of the phenomenon of high-temperature superconductivity, a topic which is at the core of condensed matter research since more than 30 years. The paper by Nicoletti et al has been published in the PNAS.
Since the beginning of the 20th century, superconductivity had been observed in some metals at temperatures only a few degrees above the absolute zero (minus...
16.08.2017 | Event News
04.08.2017 | Event News
26.07.2017 | Event News
21.08.2017 | Life Sciences
21.08.2017 | Information Technology
18.08.2017 | Life Sciences