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Incorporating multilevel values into the social-ecological systems framework

Carena J van Riper, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Sciences
Andreas Thiel, International Agricultural Policy and Environmental Governance, Faculty of Organic Agricultural Sciences, Universitšt Kassel, Germany
Marianne Penker, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria
Michael Braito, University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna, Austria
Adam C. Landon, Illinois Natural History Survey, University of Illinois, USA
Jennifer M Thomsen, W.A. Franke College of Forestry and Conservation, University of Montana, USA
Catherine M. Tucker, Department of Anthropology, University of Florida, USA


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The social-ecological systems framework has guided investigations of complex interactions among ecosystems, society, and economies. In recent years, academics and practitioners have taken steps to strengthen this framework by calling for more systematic engagement with the cognitive and affective bases of human behavior. We suggest research that engages with multilevel values (i.e., individual, cultural, assigned) will be better positioned to understand how and why people cooperate in natural resource comanagement situations, and in turn, develop more effective strategies for mitigating and adapting to a changing world. We review three conceptualizations of the value concept operating within environmental governance regimes to offer a deeper understanding of how multilevel values fit within the social-ecological systems framework. Drawing on a conceptual model of these relationships, we share results from three example studies that demonstrate how values and governance can be more explicitly integrated in future research. We aim to stimulate a dialogue about the mutual benefits that can emerge from a fuller characterization of the relationship between values and environmental governance to manage for complexities of social-ecological systems.

Key words

comanagement; governance; social-ecological system; social learning; values

Copyright © 2018 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087