Human activity poses multiple environmental challenges for ecosystems that have intrinsic value and also support that activity. Our ability to address these challenges is constrained, inter alia, by weaknesses in cross disciplinary understandings of interactive processes of change in socio-ecological systems. This paper draws on complementary insights from social and biological sciences to propose a 'livelisystems' framework of multi-scale, dynamic change across social and biological systems. This describes how material, informational and relational assets, asset services and asset pathways interact in systems with embedded and emergent properties undergoing a variety of structural transformations. Related characteristics of 'higher' (notably human) livelisystems and change processes are identified as the greater relative importance of (a) informational, relational and extrinsic (as opposed to material and intrinsic) assets, (b) teleological (as opposed to natural) selection, and (c) innovational (as opposed to mutational) change. The framework provides valuable insights into social and environmental challenges posed by global and local change, globalisation, poverty, modernisation, and growth in the anthropocene. Its potential for improving interdisciplinary and multi-scale understanding is discussed, notably by examination of human adaptation to biodiversity and ecosystem service change following the spread of Lantana camera in the Western Ghats, India.
Dorward, A. Livelisystems: conceptualising social, biological and ecosystem change and development. SOAS, University of London, London, UK (2013) 23 pp.