CHANS symposia at 2011 AAAS Annual Meeting

Mapping and disentangling human decisions in complex human-nature systems

Friday, Feb. 18; 8:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m.
140B Washington Convention Center

Li An, San Diego State University
Stuart Aitken, San Diego State University
Janet Silbernagel, University of Wisconsin, Madison

Xiaodong Chen, Harvard University: Agent-Based Modeling of Complex Social Interactions
Sarah Wandersee, San Diego State University: Multi-Level Modeling To Understand Complex Human-Environment-Policy Dynamics in Fanjingshan, China
Alex Zvoleff, San Diego State University: Modeling Human-Environment Interactions and Their Ecological Implications in Chitwan National Park, Nepal
David L. López-Carr, University of California: Examining Proximate and Underlying Causes of LUCC
Stuart Aitken, San Diego State University: Development Theory, Marginalized Populations, and Participatory Mapping
Li An, San Diego State University: Overview of Agent-Based Modeling in Handling Complex Human-Nature Systems

Many coupled human-nature systems are characterized by complexities such as nonlinearities and heterogeneity. Less is known about how human decisions are made to affect such systems. This symposium, which incorporates case studies in three Asian national reserves/parks, centers on generalizing characteristics, driving forces, and related methodologies for understanding human decision-making and its consequences. Using social surveys, fieldwork, and different modeling approaches (e.g., agent-based modeling), three junior researchers explore how social norms and the hierarchical structure of human organizations or decisions may feed back into each other and affect human resource–utilization decisions, thus affecting habitat dynamics of these species. After that, their mentors and a few well-established outside researchers present general theoretical reflections on what theories and methods can be used to tackle human decisions and how such decisions lead to system changes. Our purposeful intermix of researchers from different career stages, study sites, and backgrounds aims to better fertilize the study of complex human-nature systems.

AAAS page for Mapping and disentangling human decisions in complex human-nature systems

Telecoupling of human and natural systems

Friday, Feb. 18; 1:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m.
140B Washington Convention Center

Jianguo (Jack) Liu, Michigan State University
William McConnell, Michigan State University
Thomas J. Baerwald, National Science Foundation

Ruth DeFries, Columbia University: Tropical Deforestation Driven by Urbanization and Agricultural Trade
Eric F. Lambin, University of Louvain: Land-Use Changes in the Globalization Era
Jianguo (Jack) Liu, Michigan State University: Global Telecoupling of Remote Places
William D. Nordhaus, Yale University: Integrated Assessment Models in Economics and the Geosciences
Peter Raven, Missouri Botanical Garden: Biological Invasions Elevating Ecological and Socioeconomic Challenges
Peter Gleick, Pacific Institute for Studies in Development, Environment, and Security: Peak Water, Virtual Water, Real Water: Exploring the Connections

There is an increasing frequency and scope of telecoupling around the world (exchange of energy, matter, and information among human and natural systems across spatial, temporal, and organizational borders; examples may include tourism, trade, migration, species invasion, pollution, and flows and use of ecosystem services and goods across boundaries). Biophysical teleconnections in the Earth system and globalization in socioeconomic systems have been studied extensively but often separately. It is essential to address biophysical and socioeconomic dimensions simultaneously to gain insights into the complexity of telecoupling. Numerous questions arise. For example: How do human and natural systems interact beyond borders compared to the interactions within borders? What are the spatial and temporal patterns and dynamics of telecoupling? How does telecoupling shape environmental and socioeconomic sustainability at different spatial and temporal scales? How can negative telecoupling be minimized and positive telecoupling enhanced? This symposium will feature leading scholars who use innovative approaches to address these and other important questions. This symposium will provide an ideal platform to disseminate exciting findings to broad audiences from a variety of disciplines. These findings are not only scientifically intriguing but also highly relevant to a society faced with complex challenges in managing telecoupled human and natural systems for sustainability.

AAAS page for Telecoupling of Human and Natural Systems

Resource use and ecological resilience in a tropical socio-ecological system

Saturday, Feb. 19; 10 a.m.-11 a.m.
140B Washington Convention Center

Jose MV Fragoso, Stanford University
Oskar Burger, Stanford University 

Jose M.V. Fragoso, Stanford University: Complex Interactions Between Biodiversity and Indigenous Amazonian Cultures
Kirsten Silvius, The Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation: Animals that Hide and the Challenges of Accurate Assessment
Jeffrey Luzar, State University of New York: Locally Based Wildlife Monitoring by Indigenous Communities of the Amazon

Humans in all societies depend on some form of ecological service to sustain themselves. In some cases, communities successfully self-organize to govern the resource in a sustainable fashion, and in other cases they do not. Many factors influence whether resource-use patterns will be sustainable, ranging from commercial and economic incentives for harvesting, dietary needs, and cultural incentives to restrict overharvesting. The session presents a series of papers evaluating the role of these factors in wildlife harvesting and management among indigenous villages in the Rupununi of Guyana. The analysis of data from 28 study sites with monthly monitoring of wildlife populations and demographic data on language and religion allow for novel coupling of the resource base to complex cultural changes occurring across the Amazon and other regions. The study communities occupy savannah and forest, varying along a gradient of exposure to markets, western religions, and schools. Using large datasets, dynamical models, and statistical analysis, we identify key constraints on harvesting that emerge within the system in the form of social taboos, market control, and restricted hunting grounds. We evaluate how the process of integration into a global society may alter the system in the future and how the cultures of the region are retaining elements of traditional practice that resist these external pressures. 

AAAS page for Resource use and ecological resilience in a tropical socio-ecological system

The challenge of measuring sustainability

Sunday, Feb. 20; 8:30 a.m.-11:30 a.m.
140B Washington Convention Center

Eugene A. Rosa, Washington State University
Thomas Dietz, Michigan State University

Mathis Wackernagel, Global Footprint Network: The Ecological Footprint
Jay Emerson, Yale University; Marc Levy, Center for International Earth Science Information Network (CIESIN): Environmental Performance Index
Kirk Hamilton, The World Bank: Genuine Savings
Nic Marks, New Economics Foundation:The Happy Planet Index
Marina Fischer-Kowalski, Alpen Adria University: National Material Flow Accounting
Rosina Bierbaum, University of Michigan: Reflecting on Measures of Sustainability

Measuring progress toward sustainability and evaluating policies intended to support sustainability requires measuring sustainability with indicators that are valid and reliable. Whereas proposals for such measures have existed for several decades, in the last few years, an increasingly sophisticated literature has developed estimates of key measures, examined methodological issues in sustainability measurement, and applied the measures to the analysis of the impact of alternative policies and institutions on sustainability. This session will critically examine recent developments in measuring sustainability, providing a review of recent progress, identification of current strengths and weaknesses in practice, and point directions for future research. Each speaker will address the following questions: What is the conceptual basis for the measure? What are the methods by which data are acquired and aggregated to produce the measure? What are the strengths and limits of the measure? What insights have been revealed by using this measure? How has/could have the measure been used to inform decision-making? How has the measure been used in scientific research? What are the key directions for future research and application?

AAAS page for The Challenge of Measuring Sustainability

Modeling across millennia: Interdisciplinary paths to ancient socionatural systems

Sunday, Feb. 20; 1:30 p.m.-4:30 p.m.
146B Washington Convenvtion Center

Timothy A. Kohler, Washington State University
Stefani A. Crabtree, Washington State University

Ben Fitzhugh, University of Washington: Scales of Vulnerability and Resilience in Human Settlement of the Kuril Islands
Herbert D.G. Maschner, Idaho State University: Archeology as Long-Term Ecology: The Dynamics of Humans and Marine Ecosystems on the North Pacific
J. Daniel Rogers, National Museum of Natural History: Modeling Human-Environmental Interactions in Inner Asia: Households to Empires
Timothy A. Kohler, Washington State University: The Village Ecodynamics Project: Modeling the Deep Pueblo Past
Patrick V. Kirch, University of California: Islands as Model Systems for Long-Term Human Ecodynamics
C. Michael Barton, Arizona State University: Looking for the Future in the Past: Long-Term Change in Socioecological Systems

For 50 years, archeologists have worked with botanists, zoologists, geologists, and other scientists to reconstruct past environments and identify constituents of the archeological record. But only recently have we begun to incorporate the data from other sciences in dynamic models of prehistoric societies in their changing landscapes, to begin to understand how subtle processes such as the human impact on the environment interact with climatic variability, and human social and cultural processes, to form the archeological record that we discover. These papers report findings from six projects whose target societies range in scale from fishers and foragers in the northern Pacific, to incipient states in Mesopotamia. Collectively, they illustrate the range of ways in which archeologists can work with other scientists to describe, model, and explain linked changes to societies and environments that open new approaches to understanding the emergence of larger and more complex polities, the long-term sustainability of adaptations, and the factors that make societies robust or vulnerable to various environmental hazards. This symposium is sponsored by CHANS-NET, an international network of research on coupled human and natural systems.

AAAS page for Modeling Across Millennia: Interdisciplinary Paths to Ancient Socionatural Systems

Social networks and sustainability

Monday, Feb. 21; 9:45 a.m.-11:15 a.m.
156 Washington Convention Center

Thomas Dietz, Michigan State University
Adam D. Henry, West Virginia University

Mrill Ingram, University of Wisconsin: Telling it Like It Is: The Power of Narrative in Environmental Networks
Ken Frank, Michigan State University: Natural Resource Management Networks
Adam D. Henry, West Virginia University: Networks and Policy Learning for Sustainability

Many problems of sustainability are strongly influenced by the social networks that link together relevant stakeholders. These networks are often complex, self-organizing mosaics that include diverse actors such as natural resource users, scientists, and policy advocates. Social networks also shape the dynamics that give rise to conflict and consensus within social groups. Networks are therefore an important mechanism for the emergence of collective action and successful learning in the face of problems of sustainability, which are often characterized by scientific uncertainty and deep conflicts over interests and values. Recent scientific advances in the analysis of networks provide rich scientific ground for understanding the role of social networks in sustainability. Understanding the emergence and structure of networks engages deep theoretical issues regarding how networks self-organize, grow, and evolve over time and how individuals embedded within networks make decisions and learn about complex issues. This session has two goals. First, we will review recent advances in research on how network processes influence decision-making for sustainability. Second, this session will explore how a better understanding of these processes enable strategies to resolve conflict and promote more effective collaboration and learning. These are key ingredients to finding lasting solutions to wrenching problems of sustainability.

AAAS page for Social Networks and Sustainability