Humans are increasingly being recognized as an integral part of ecosystems. Human presence transforms landscapes and modifies, often in substantial ways, important ecological processes. Over the last 15 years, scientists interested in understanding the complexity of environmental problems have been advocating for the inclusion of the ‘human dimension’ in the analysis of ecosystems.
The need to analyze social and ecological systems as one interconnected entity, instead of separate elements, has been stressed. There is increasing emphasis on how the analysis of coupled human-ecological systems is critical for the construction of future policy and management alternatives. The challenge, however, is to develop frameworks that both facilitate the maintenance of ecosystem health while, at the same time, recognizing and enhancing human livelihoods.
The work proposed by TROPI-DRY attempts to address this challenge. At present, there is no single, universally accepted way of formulating the linkage between social and ecological systems. Using a triangulated research approach, TROPI-DRY’s work attempts to understand different situations and to learn from successful and poor management experiences. This will be achieved via a systematic treatment of cases using common conceptual research approaches in the management of Tdfs in the Latin American region.
The social sciences component of the TROPI-DRY employs a multi-method, staged, combined qualitative and quantitative research approach. For each study site in the Americas this will result in:
The collection and compilation of descriptive social statistics,
the construction of an environmental policy history, and
the collection and analysis of multiple ecological and land use knowledge.
Once completed, it is anticipated that this multi-site data set will allow for cross-site comparison and the development of a broad framework for understanding the linkages between social and ecological systems. Primary data collection techniques will include document analysis (policies) and key informant interviews (situated knowledge).
Members of the Social Science Working Group recently met at the University of Alberta to establish the protocols for the collection of Tropi-Dry Human and Social data. Researchers from Mexico, Brazil and University of Alberta spent a week in Edmonton developing a combined quantitative-qualitative-policy analysis framework and establishing research deliverables for years one and two of the Human Dimenions research. Over the next year the protocols developed in Edmonton will be operationalized in Mexico, Costa Rica, and - possibly - one site in Brazil in order to be fine tuned before implementation in the remaining Tropi-Dry sites.