System Dynamics as a Framework for Understanding Human—Environment Dynamics

Document Type

Book Section

Publication Date


Publication Title

Social and Ecological System Dynamics Characteristics, Trends, and Integration in the Lake Tana Basin, Ethiopia


Springer International Publishing

Publisher Location

Cham, CH



First page number:


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Understanding the dynamics of human—environment systems, and developing policies that promote their sustainability, requires a holistic, integrated approach. Although many frameworks have been developed that include social and environmental components, managing social and ecological systems as integrated systems has been difficult in practice. The analytical and practical challenge is to identify the interactions that underlie resource management problems, find leverage points where management or policy changes can effectively move the system in a more sustainable direction, and build cooperation among system stakeholders to implement change. This chapter gives an overview of existing frameworks for examining social—ecological interactions, then presents system dynamics as both a theoretical perspective and a practical method for integrating across disciplines. The system dynamics approach makes feedback relationships in the system explicit, and provides a platform to foster collaboration and coordination among stakeholders in the system. This chapter offers a systems framework for considering the connections among the individual chapters to follow. This approach was used for a collaborative mapping workshop on sustainability issues in the Lake Tana basin held in November 2014 as a first step toward integrating disparate research disciplines and stakeholders. Chapter 34 describes the workshop.



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