2014-03-19/21, Berlin, Coupled Human-Natural System Models, MRI session at the GLP Open Science Meeting
Coupled Human-Natural System Models for the Assessment of the Dynamics and Resilience of Mountain Socio-Ecological Systems

Session Abstract

Understanding and forecasting the dynamics and emergent properties of mountain socio-ecological systems requires the elaboration of models of the coupled human-natural systems in mountain regions. This session will explore a variety of approaches to such models and assess the likely future directions for productive research.

Mountain regions provide a complete suite of ecosystem services, from supporting biodiversity to the provisioning of water, food and fiber, regulation of floods, landslides and other mass movements, and cultural services related not just to recreational activities but also to spirituality and to national and cultural identity. These manifold services are critical not only to mountain communities, but to the numerous people, societies and nations who live downstream from these systems.

These services thus creating a rich network of linkages across geographic space that one might not otherwise expect for such frequently peripheral areas. These linkages manifest at multiple different scales, from the local to the continental. They are furthermore structured by the nature of the services in question and thus operate through multiple different hierarchies. They epitomize teleconnections between decisions taken at various distant centers and resource management within these important regions.

Mountains regions are at the same time very dynamics, driven by a range of pressure, often but not exclusively socio-economic, and pulse phenomena, often but not exclusively biophysical. Thus the dynamics of mountain socio-ecological systems reflect a wide range of temporal frequencies, resulting in important and often unexpected transitions in resource use.

Coupled human-natural system models provide a rigorous framework by which to express the multiple spatial and temporal scales of the drivers, their repercussions through the system and the resultants feedbacks. Their use permits the quantitative assessment of impacts and responses.

In addition, such models often support a detailed and quantitative assessment of resource governance in mountain regions. As with the services they provide, the governance of mountain regions is frequently multi-level, with authority dispersed across space and leading to novel dynamics itself. Coupled model thus provide a means for assessing likely future trajectories and more globally, the resilience of mountains socio-ecological systems to perturbations.

Session Chair:
Gregory Greenwood, Mountain Research Initiative, Institute of Geography, University of Bern, green@giub.unibe.ch

Thomas Kohler, Centre for Development and Environment (CDE), University of Bern, thomas.kohler@cde.unibe.ch