Ohl, C. and S. M. Swinton. 2010. Integrating social sciences into long-term ecological research. Pages 399-410 in F. Muller, C. Baessler, H. Schubert, and S. Klotz, eds. Long-term Ecological Research: Between Theory and Application. Springer, Berlin.
In Europe and North America, long-term ecological research (LTER) networks are changing their treatment of human activity from exogenous ‘disturbances’ to endogenous behaviour. The engagement of social scientists in LTER networks currently takes forms ranging from nonexistent, to research in parallel with ecological research but with minimal interaction, to truly collaborative long-term socio-ecological research (LTSER). Successful collaboration of social and ecological scientists can be facilitated by a ‘jazz band’ approach that allows shifting multidisciplinary leadership along with disciplinary research solos. Socio-ecological simulation modelling can serve as a common tool for analysing complex dynamics of the interacting systems. The design criteria for an LTSER network should include socio-economic as well as ecological factors in order to ensure that findings can be extrapolated in both dimensions, an approach currently being followed in Europe. However, due to evolving societal needs, socio-ecological research should also be occurring outside the network of LTSER sites. New governmental initiatives on both sides of the Atlantic have the potential to enable more and better socio-ecological research than in the past.
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