SES Framework

Unpacking the biophysical world’s attributes

The Social-Ecological Systems framework builds upon the IAD by unpacking the biophysical world's attributes that are acted upon in the action situations to facilitate multidisciplinary efforts toward a better understanding of complex SESs.

In this framework, an SES has multiple levels of nested systems. In the first level, the four core subsystems – (i) resource systems, (ii) resource units, (iii) governance systems, and (iv) users – are connected as well as to the social, economic, and political settings and related ecosystems.

Each core subsystem comprises second-level variables, which are further composed of deeper-level variables. The SES framework has been proven useful for providing a common set of potentially relevant variables to use in the design of data collection instruments, the conduct of fieldwork, and the analysis of the sustainability of complex SESs.

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Select bibliography

Ecology and Society 19(2) (2014). Special issue edited by P. Bots, M. Schlüter, and J. Sendzimir, “A Framework for Analyzing, Comparing, and Diagnosing Social-Ecological Systems.”

Epstein, G., J. Vogt, S. Mincey, M. Cox, and B. Fischer. 2013. “Missing Ecology: Integrating Ecological Perspectives with the Social-Ecological System Framework.” International Journal of the Commons 7(2):432–53.

Janssen, M., F. Bousquet, and E. Ostrom. 2011. “A Multimethod Approach to Study the Governance of Social-Ecological Systems.” Natures Sciences Sociétés (June):4–16.

McGinnis, M.D. and E. Ostrom. 2014. "Social-Ecological System Framework: Initial Changes and Continuing Challenges."Ecology and Society19(2).

Ostrom, E. and M. Cox. 2010. “Moving Beyond Panaceas: A Multi-Tiered Diagnostic Approach for Social-Ecological Analysis.” Environmental Conservation 37(4):451–63.

Ostrom, E. 2009. “A General Framework for Analyzing Sustainability of Social-Ecological Systems.” NIH PMID 19628857

Vogt, J. M., Epstein, G. B., Mincey, S. K., Fischer, B. C., & McCord, P. (2015). Putting the" E" in SES: unpacking the ecology in the Ostrom sociale-cological system framework. Ecology and Society, 20(1).


Case Studies of Social-Ecological Systems

Social-Ecological Systems Meta-Analysis Database