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
Plasma-zapping process could yield trans fat-free soybean oil product
02.12.2016 | Purdue University
New findings about the deformed wing virus, a major factor in honey bee colony mortality
11.11.2016 | Veterinärmedizinische Universität Wien
A multi-institutional research collaboration has created a novel approach for fabricating three-dimensional micro-optics through the shape-defined formation of porous silicon (PSi), with broad impacts in integrated optoelectronics, imaging, and photovoltaics.
Working with colleagues at Stanford and The Dow Chemical Company, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign fabricated 3-D birefringent...
In experiments with magnetic atoms conducted at extremely low temperatures, scientists have demonstrated a unique phase of matter: The atoms form a new type of quantum liquid or quantum droplet state. These so called quantum droplets may preserve their form in absence of external confinement because of quantum effects. The joint team of experimental physicists from Innsbruck and theoretical physicists from Hannover report on their findings in the journal Physical Review X.
“Our Quantum droplets are in the gas phase but they still drop like a rock,” explains experimental physicist Francesca Ferlaino when talking about the...
The Max Planck Institute for Physics (MPP) is opening up a new research field. A workshop from November 21 - 22, 2016 will mark the start of activities for an innovative axion experiment. Axions are still only purely hypothetical particles. Their detection could solve two fundamental problems in particle physics: What dark matter consists of and why it has not yet been possible to directly observe a CP violation for the strong interaction.
The “MADMAX” project is the MPP’s commitment to axion research. Axions are so far only a theoretical prediction and are difficult to detect: on the one hand,...
Broadband rotational spectroscopy unravels structural reshaping of isolated molecules in the gas phase to accommodate water
In two recent publications in the Journal of Chemical Physics and in the Journal of Physical Chemistry Letters, researchers around Melanie Schnell from the Max...
The efficiency of power electronic systems is not solely dependent on electrical efficiency but also on weight, for example, in mobile systems. When the weight of relevant components and devices in airplanes, for instance, is reduced, fuel savings can be achieved and correspondingly greenhouse gas emissions decreased. New materials and components based on gallium nitride (GaN) can help to reduce weight and increase the efficiency. With these new materials, power electronic switches can be operated at higher switching frequency, resulting in higher power density and lower material costs.
Researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE together with partners have investigated how these materials can be used to make power...
16.11.2016 | Event News
01.11.2016 | Event News
14.10.2016 | Event News
02.12.2016 | Medical Engineering
02.12.2016 | Agricultural and Forestry Science
02.12.2016 | Physics and Astronomy