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Social-ecological system framework: initial changes and continuing challenges

Michael D. McGinnis, Indiana University
Elinor Ostrom, Indiana University


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The social-ecological system (SES) framework investigated in this special issue enables researchers from diverse disciplinary backgrounds working on different resource sectors in disparate geographic areas, biophysical conditions, and temporal domains to share a common vocabulary for the construction and testing of alternative theories and models that determine which influences on processes and outcomes are especially critical in specific empirical settings. We summarize changes that have been made to this framework and discuss a few remaining ambiguities in its formulation. Specifically, we offer a tentative rearrangement of the list of relevant attributes of governance systems and discuss other ways to make this framework applicable to policy settings beyond natural resource settings. The SES framework will continue to change as more researchers apply it to additional contexts; the main purpose of this article is to delineate the version that served as the basis for the theoretical innovations and empirical analyses detailed in other contributions to this special issue.

Key words

frameworks; governance; institutional analysis; social-ecological systems

Copyright © 2014 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