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.