Using case study data to understand SES interactions: A model-centered meta-analysis of SES framework applications


Studying social–ecological interactions systematically is difficult when dealing with case study data. The methodological flexibility inherent in case studies facilitates the discovery of complex relationships between social and ecological variables; however, it also poses problems for knowledge accumulation given the diverse ways that variables are measured, as well as the descriptive approaches to causal inference that are typically employed. This article builds on the Social-Ecological Systems Framework (SESF) to systematically compare interactions among variables across case studies. We adopt a ‘model-centered’ meta-analysis of existing SESF case studies, in which the units of analysis are causal explanations including sets of variables and their effects on outcomes (i.e. ‘models’). Our analysis encompassed 30 studies and resulted in the formalization of 125 models. The analysis illustrates opportunities to assess interactions at different levels of detail. The paper concludes by proposing strategies to advance the study and reporting of interactions in case studies to foster a better understanding of dynamics and outcomes of environmental sustainability.

Publication Type
Journal Article
Sergio Villamayor-Tomás, Humbolt University, Berlin
Christoph Oberlack, University of Bern
Graham Epstein, Indiana University
Stefan Partelow, Leibniz Center for Tropical Marine Ecology (ZMT)
Matteo Roggero
Elke Kellner
Maurice Tschopp
Michael Cox, Dartmouth College
Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability

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