Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute Among Those to Receive 2017 Ecological Society of America Sustainability Science Award

March 16, 2017, Washington, D.C. – This week, the ESA recognized Jianguo Liu, Harold Mooney, Vanessa Hull, Steven J. Davis, Joanne Gaskell, Thomas Hertel, Jane Lubchenco, Karen C. Seto, Peter Gleick, Claire Kremen, and Shuxin Li with the 2017 Sustainability Science Award for their research review “Systems Integration for Global Sustainability” published in Science in February 2015.

Achieving sustainability, the effort to meet the current needs of Earth’s human population while securing natural resources for future generations, is a massive global task. Research and management projects in sustainability often focus on specific resources, like water or food, or individual problems, like invasive species, pollution, climate change, and biodiversity loss. Researchers may approach questions about sustainability from the perspective of medicine, engineering, social or environmental sciences. Short-term studies may provide nuance, while long-term studies capture dynamic behavior. Small-scale solutions may not extend to larger geographic areas. But these components are interconnected.

Isolated approaches are not the most effective route to global sustainability and can even unintentionally undercut overall progress, say Jianguo Liu and colleagues. They review recent advances in five conceptual frameworks that attempt to guide systems integration: ecosystem services, environmental footprints, planetary boundaries, human-nature nexuses, and telecoupling.

The authors examined successful applications of different frameworks and evaluated strengths. They argue for the need to quantify spillover systems and feedbacks and to integrate analyses over multiple spatial and temporal scales. This will likely require the development of new analytical frameworks both to understand the social-ecological mechanisms involved and to inform management and policy decisions for global sustainability.

Read more here.