Understating complex interactions in socio-ecological systems using system dynamics: A case in the tropical Andes

Peer Reviewed
31 July 2021

Linda Berrio-Giraldo, Clara Villegas-Palacio, Santiago Arango-Aramburo


The high dependence of human communities on ecosystems’ well-functioning has transformed and degraded ecosystems at alarming rates. Strategies for sustainability are an urgent need and requires the understanding of the complex interactions between human and ecological systems in the territories. For such understanding several modelling approaches have been proposed, but still face important challenges. This manuscript contributes by examining the dynamics of land use and land cover change in a basin in Colombian Andes using the socio-ecological systems approach. We develop a system dynamics model for a basin socio-ecological system with four interrelated subsystems and ecosystem services. The ecosystem services considered are hydrological regulation and erosion as an inverse proxy for the regulation ecosystem service of erosion control. In the model different natural and social processes of multiple time and spatial scales are considered. The model contributes to fill the following gaps identified by recent scientific literature: (i) Analysis of spatiotemporal dynamics of ES and SES remains a major challenge (ii) There are very few studies on the dynamics of mountain ecosystem services in the south hemisphere (iii) There is need of studies that focus on more than one ecosystem service to allow the analysis of the interaction between different ES, (iv) Models are often developed to only work with biophysical data excluding socioeconomic aspects that contribute to understanding complexity of SES, (iv) includes a human decision making process modelling that considers multiple criteria to decide land use. The modeling approach presented here constitutes an advance in the challenges associated with socio-ecological systems modeling.

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Publication reference
Berrio-Giraldo, L., Villegas-Palacio, C., & Arango-Aramburo, S. (2021). Understating complex interactions in socio-ecological systems using system dynamics: A case in the tropical Andes. Journal of Environmental Management, 291, 112675. doi:10.1016/j.jenvman.2021.112675

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Publication | 29 June 2021