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Rivers are social–ecological systems: Time to integrate human dimensions into riverscape ecology and management

May 1, 2018

Incorporation of concepts from landscape ecology into understanding and managing riverine ecosystems has become widely known as riverscape ecology. Riverscape ecology emphasizes interactions among processes at different scales and their consequences for valued ecosystem components, such as riverine fishes. Past studies have focused strongly on understanding the ecological processes in riverscapes and how human actions modify those processes. It is increasingly clear, however, that an understanding of the drivers behind actions that lead to human modification also merit consideration, especially regarding how those drivers influence management efficacy. These indirect drivers of riverscape outcomes can be understood in the context of a diverse array of social processes, which we collectively refer to as human dimensions. Like ecological phenomena, social processes also exhibit complex interactions across spatiotemporal scales. Greater emphasis on feedbacks between social and ecological processes will lead scientists and managers to more completely understand riverscapes as complex, dynamic, interacting social–ecological systems. Emerging applications in riverscapes, as well as studies of other ecosystems, provide examples that can lead to stronger integration of social and ecological science. We argue that conservation successes within riverscapes may not come from better ecological science, improved ecosystem service analyses, or even economic incentives if the fundamental drivers of human behaviors are not understood and addressed in conservation planning and implementation.

Publication Year 2018
Title Rivers are social–ecological systems: Time to integrate human dimensions into riverscape ecology and management
DOI 10.1002/wat2.1291
Authors Jason B. Dunham, Paul L. Angermeier, Shelley D. Crausbay, Amanda E. Cravens, Hannah Gosnell, Jamie McEvoy, Max A. Moritz, Nejem Raheem, Todd Sanford
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title WIREs Water
Index ID 70196788
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Forest and Rangeland Ecosystem Science Center