The Human Ecosystem Framework

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Adapted with permission from Machlis et al 2005 V 5.2


Text describing the variables and their applications originated, and in some cases was adapted from Machlis, G.E., Force, J.E., and Dalton, S.E. (1994). "Monitoring Social Indicators for Ecosystem Management." Technical paper submitted to the Interior Columbia River Basin Project under Order #43-0E00-4-9186 (includes bibliography).

A human ecosystem is defined as a coherent system of biophysical and social factors capable of adaptation and sustainability over time. For example, a rural community can be considered a human ecosystem, if it exhibits boundaries, resource flows, social structures, and continuity over time. Human ecosystems can be described at several spatial scales, and these scales are hierarchically linked. Thus, a family unit, community, country, region, nation and even the global population can be treated as human ecosystems.

The Human Ecosystem Framework is a tool used by social ecologists to examine and measure the interactions between human communities and the biophysical systems we inhabit. It can be used in a number of ways, and for a variety of purposes. Here, the Human Ecosystem will be used as an organizing framework for social assessments. The variables provide the basic structure. For each variable, indicators are selected, and for each indicator, measures are chosen. These measures can then be monitored over time to detect trends in the system of interest.

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