Trajectories of Social-Ecological Systems in Latin American Watersheds: Facing Complexity and Vulnerability in the context of Climate Change

Financeur du programme

programme international


In a world populated by 7.5 billion people anthropogenic change is occurring with increasing rapidity, complexity and uncontrollability (IPCC 2014). To conserve the ecosystems that sustain the livelihoods of the global population we need to understand the speeds and scales at which the drivers of these changes occur, in terms of environmental, climatic, economic, technological, sociocultural, demographic and governance factors (Zou and Wei 2010). Watersheds in the periphery of urban
centers (hereafter rural-urban watersheds) are particularly relevant landscapes where to study such changes and climate change vulnerability since urban population drives the pressure and consumption of a large number of rural ecosystem goods and services (e.g. water quantity and quality, food, scenic beauty, water regulation). The social-ecological system framework offers a great potential to better understand the impact, importance, causal mechanisms and interactions between drivers of change and the enabling conditions for long term sustainability of social-ecological systems (SES), but its operationalization is still preliminary. Our scientific objective is to participate in the global academic efforts for operationalizing this framework by advancing in a theory of change for the sustainability of
SES through an analysis of social-ecological trajectories. We will work in rural-urban watersheds of Mexico, Colombia and France, which are countries characterised by a contrasting social-ecological drivers of change in terms of urban pressure, governance dynamics, livelihoods productive systems, agri-environmental policies and market demand for ecosystem goods and services.