Social-ecological systems

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Photo: The view of Manhattan skyline from the Bronx (Hunts Point).

In our research project we consider the Bronx as a social-ecological system. Social-ecological systems are “complex adaptive systems where social and biophysical agents are interacting at multiple temporal and spatial scales” (Janssen & Ostrom, 2006). This concept is very similar to the concept of coupled human and hatural systems, which are systems in which human and natural components interact. In the past very often researchers were thinking that ecosystems do not include humans, and only natural ecosystems should be protected or restored their native state. However, today more and more researchers view humans are an integral part these systems.

This idea is especially valuable in cities where there are many people and their infrastructure, as well as various species of plants and animals living in modified ecosystems. People depend on natural components of urban social-ecological systems in many ways. For example, trees regulate microclimate and provide cultural services, community gardens provide food and space for exercise, and healthy rivers provide opportunities for recreation. On the other hand, natural components are dependent on people. For example, people maintain designed systems such as urban forests and salt marsh, which provide habitats for wild species of animals.

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