Stanley Tanyi Asah

A social-ecological systems framework for understanding human adaptability to ecological perturbations

Stanley Tanyi Asah
Human Dimensions of Natural Resource Management, College of the Environment, University of Washington, Box 352100, Seattle, WA, 98195-2100, USA
Day 2, 15:40-16:20

In practice, social and ecological systems are coupled. This configuration as coupled social-ecological systems is of prime importance in our efforts to better understand and manage human adaptability to ecological perturbations. I use such a configuration to present a systematic framework for characterizing, managing and monitoring the ability to cope with and adapt to fine and coarse scale ecological perturbations. Based on a rigorously developed theoretical framework, I discuss four main attributes, and their inherent sub-attributes, of social-ecological systems. These main attributes include: (i) the system’s ability to deal with change and uncertainty; (ii) ability to renew and reorganize itself; (iii) ability to combine different types of knowledge for learning and; (iv) capability of the system to create opportunities for self-organization. I discuss how a close exploration of this framework, its attributes and sub-attributes, help determine the extent to which such systems can accommodate ecological perturbations. I also discuss how such framework of attributes and sub-attributes facilitate understanding, management, and monitoring of system changes.


Stanley Tanyi Asah

Assistant Professor: Contemporary natural resource management is threatened by anthropogenic forces. Despite technological approaches to mitigating such forces, the threat persists, suggesting that we adopt complementary approaches. One such approach is behavioral. My research explores and seeks to provide insights on the human behavioral aspects of human–environment interactions. I observe, analyze, and interpret how human behavior influences, and is in turn influenced by, ecological processes. I use a variety of qualitative and quantitative approaches to bring human behavior to bear on the understanding and sustainable management of ecological systems. I am currently exploring how humans benefit from ecosystems, the behavioral and material conditions under which humans engage in ecological restoration efforts, the human dimensions of bioenergy and forest fires, and how various mechanisms of childhood exposure to nature influence adult environmentally significant behaviors and citizenship.

Relevant Publications

  • Asah, ST (2008) Empirical Social-Ecological Ssystem Analysis: From Theoretical Framework to Latent Variable Structural Equation Model. Environmental Management, 42:1077-1090
  • Asah, ST, Nelson KC, Bengston, DN (2008) Managing Social-Ecological Change and Uncertainty: Fllodplain Agriculture and Conservation in Dryland Northern Cameroon. Conservation and Society, 6(2):166-178