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Towards a theoretical framework for analyzing integrated socio-environmental systems

Abstract

This article addresses two major challenges for an integrated analysis of socio-environmental systems, namely the diversity of contributing disciplines and the wide spectrum of temporal and spatial scales. Archaeology, the geosciences and socio-cultural anthropology provide information relating to a diversity of specific time series and spatial distribution maps in order to answer questions relating to the impact of environmental and anthropogenic factors in population growth and migration processes. A model based on the key idea of adaptive cycles as it was initially developed in resilience research can be productively employed to bridge the diversity of disciplines and to integrate the diversity of data that they provide.
This article outlines first steps towards recognizing similar patterns across a wide spectrum of empirical observations. It is exploratory in its attempt to trace these patterns across different layers of understanding the complexity of humaneenvironment interaction.The case material considered relates to (1) observable ethnographic data on forager mobility and its simulation, (2) the demography of the Central European Neolithic, (3) the palaeodemography of foragers during the Late Upper Palaeolithic, (4) the societal reorganization by Palaeolithic foragers under climate instability, (5) the palaeoenvironmental study of lake Prespa in the Balkans, and (6) environmental responses to agricultural land use practices in relation to sediment flux in hillslope systems. With reference to these cases, an adaptive cycle model is outlined, with phases of growth, conservation, distortion and reorganization. The model helps to infer internal dynamics in the diverse environmental
and social domains without reducing one domain to another while still connecting evidence from a host of different sources. More generally, such a model could help in understanding features of non-linearity, multifactoral relations, scale dependency and time-lags which seem to be typical for the complex dynamics of integrated socio-environmental systems.

Bibliography

Widlok, T., Aufgebauer, A., Bradtmöller, M., Dikau, R., Hoffmann, T., Kretschmer, I., ... and Zimmermann, A. (2012): Towards a theoretical framework for analyzing integrated socio-environmental systems. Quaternary International, 274, 259-272.

Authors Widlok, T., Aufgebauer, A., Bradtmöller, M., Dikau, R., Hoffmann, T., Kretschmer, I., ... and Zimmermann, A.
Type article
Title Towards a theoretical framework for analyzing integrated socio-environmental systems
Citation Widlok, T., Aufgebauer, A., Bradtmöller, M., Dikau, R., Hoffmann, T., Kretschmer, I., ... and Zimmermann, A. (2012): Towards a theoretical framework for analyzing integrated socio-environmental systems. Quaternary International, 274, 259-272.
DOI 10.1016/j.quaint.2012.01.020
Journal Quaternary International
Year 2012
Number 274
Pages 259-272
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