The American West as a social-ecological region: drivers, dynamics and implications for nested social-ecological systems

Año Publicación:  2019
Responsable: K. Jones et al.
Journal, Volumen y páginas:
Environmental Research Letters, 14(11), 115008


K. Jones, J. Abrams, R. T. Belote, B. J. Beltrán, J. Brandt, N. Carter, A. J. Castro, et al.


The American West exists in the popular imagination as a distinct region, and policies and politics often suggest that both the challenges and the opportunities for land management and human well-being across the region are relatively homogeneous. In this paper, we argue that there are key characteristics that define the West as a social-ecological region, and also that there are myriad social-ecological systems (SESs) within the region that require diverse and dynamic approaches to managing change over time. We first conceptualize aridity, topography, and a unique political economy of land as exogenous factors that persist over time and space to define the American West as a contiguous social-ecological region. We then identify a second set of characteristics that show high degrees of variation across SESs within the American West. Finally, we operationalize the relationships between regional characteristics and local dynamics through a set of case studies that exemplify specific types of SESs in the region. The results of these empirical representations of the regional and intra-regional social-ecological dynamics of the contemporary American West highlight the implications for research and management of taking a cross-scale integrated approach to address pressing social-ecological opportunities and challenges in complex adaptive systems.

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