The Catchment Action Plan will look at the resilience of social-ecological systems in the Lachlan Catchment.
Resilience is the capacity of a system to undergo change and still retain its basic function and values. We know that there are limits to how much a system can change and still recover. We need to identify the thresholds or tipping points that result in an irreversible change. Building and maintaining resilience will be increasingly important in the face of increasing global influences.
Resilience thinking aims to identify a small number of important variables that control the way a complex landscape system can continue to function in a desired way. (NRC Framework for assessing and recommending CAPs 2011) Incorporating resilience into the CAPs is a new concept and marks a very different approach in natural resource management planning.
Wikipedia describes systems thinking as the process of understanding how things influence one another within a whole. In nature, systems thinking examples include ecosystems in which various elements such as air, water, movement, plants, and animals work together. In organizations, systems consist of people, structures, and processes that work together to make an organization healthy or unhealthy.(http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Systems_thinking)
Systems thinking is about looking at the 'big picture' to understand the relationships between the `parts' within it. It includes understanding what makes up each component and what processes allow it to function in its current form.
Systems thinking allows us to understand the most appropriate part of the system to focus our efforts allowing us to retain or improve system function to gain the best overall system outcome.
Society and communities, by living in a landscape and using resources in that landscape to provide shelter, food, clothing and meet other human needs, have changed and continue to change the landscape. The landscape and the resources available in it also impact on the development of society and communities. These relationships are captured in 'the thinking' of social-ecological systems.
A social ecological system is an integrated 'arrangement' of ecosystems and human societies that emphasises the 'humans in nature' perspective. Understanding of the two way relationship between people and the environment in which they live requires an understanding of ecosystem goods and services that are used, that are non-marketed, and unknown along with the 'state' or health of the people collectively.
The use of a social - ecological system approach to the planning and implementation of natural resource policy recognises the role of individuals and their values to the management of our environment.
A social-ecological system is 'identified' through the consideration of known geographic differences such as IBRA (Interim Biogeographic Regionalisation of Australia) regions, climatic differences, distribution of soil types, the dominant land use of each area and differing extents of remnant vegetation. Experiential knowledge of the social landscape such as differing perspectives of croppers and graziers, association to service centres based on transport infrastructure and the impact of remoteness were also taken into account. It is also acknowledged that within the five social-ecological systems drafted within the Lachlan catchment, there are smaller scale nested systems (or landscapes) and that these overlap with 'fuzzy' boundaries and extend beyond the catchment boundaries.
It is about recognising that what we do as humans has an impact on our environment and our environment has an impact on what we do as humans.
Functions and values
The goods, services and values that are gained from the social-ecological system are an important part of the system function. The values are "What's important to you?".
The benefits that people derive from the ecosystem might include the production of goods e.g., food, fibre, water, fuel, genetic resources, pharmaceuticals, etc.; regeneration processes e.g., purification of air and water, seed dispersal and pollination; stabilizing processes e.g., erosion control, moderation of weather extremes; life-fulfilling functions e.g., aesthetic beauty, cultural value; and conservation of options e.g., maintenance of ecological systems for the future. (Daily, G. C. 1999. Developing a scientific basis for managing Earth's life support systems. Conservation Ecology 3(2): 14. [online] URL: http://www.consecol.org/vol3/iss2/art14/
For anyone interested in looking into the above concepts further reading can be found at the following links:
Causal loops or systems thinking - this link shows you some great visual examples of how each component of a system can play a role in the whole systems function. It will give you an insight into things like reinforcing and balancing feedback loops.It helps to build our understanding of how to identify the best 'place' to focus our efforts to gain system wide benefits.
Thinking in Systems - this book by Donella H Meadows gives great insight into how systems thinking can be used for problem solving.
Resilience Thinking - this book by Brian Walker and David Salt provides a comprehensive explanation on the use of resilience thinking including case studies.
The 5th Discipine - this book by Peter Senge is a comprehensive look at the use of systems thinking as a management tool. Whilst it has an organisational focus the concepts are transferrable to natural resource management and the management of social - ecological systems.
Resilience Alliance - this website has interesting links, blogs and reading material for all things resilience