Photo: Joern Fischer

A holistic approach to studying social-ecological systems and its application to southern Transylvania

The paper by Jan Hanspach and colleagues is a transdisciplinary assessment of current and future social-ecological trends in Southern Transylvania.

In this paper, Hanspach and colleagues apply a holistic approach that considers multiple scales, spatial heterogeneity and uncertainties in order to get a better understanding of the dynamics of this particular social-ecological system. The approach starts with characterising the local social-ecological conditions throughout the study area, using villages as the units of analysis and mapping ecosystem service bundles across the region. This is then combined with a description of the regional system dynamics and a spatially explicit understanding of current development trends for eight different variables (e.g. land use intensification, forest exploitation, emigration). Finally future scenarios for the region are developed through a series of scenario planning workshops. The resulting four scenarios reflect the influence of the most important (and most uncertain) drivers for the future of Southern Transylvania, namely international and national policy settings and the ability of locals to capitalize on opportunities.

A fantastic recap of the paper is found at the Ideas4Sustainability blogexternal link, and the full paper can be downloaded hereexternal link.


Ecology and Society


PECS - Programme on Ecosystem Change and Society

Stockholm Resilience Centre

Stockholm University
SE-106 91 Stockholm, Sweden
Visiting address: Kräftriket 2

+46 734 60 70 68


The Programme on Ecosystem Change and Society (PECS), is a core project of Future Earth. It aims to integrate research on the stewardship of social–ecological system and the relationships among natural capital, human wellbeing, livelihoods, inequality and poverty.