Resilience characteristics of transformations in social-ecological systems: a case study of the Tamar Valley Organics Group
James, Thomas Christopher
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
This thesis applies a resilience lens to investigate conversions of farmland from conventional to organic status as transformations in social-ecological systems. Transformation is widely promoted in resilience literature yet there are relatively few empirical studies of transformation at multiple scales. This research addresses this distinct gap in understanding by analysing dimensions of transformations including the roles of key individuals, social-ecological innovation, and different capacities to manage dynamic change. Resilience concepts and ideas are embedded in action research practice to provide new directions and insights on transformation. These insights are the result of a process of research that engaged with the Tamar Valley Organics Group, UK, during the period 2012 to 2016. Reflective interviews, mental models interviews, and participatory scenario planning research activities facilitate past, present and future perspectives on transformation. The findings of these research methods are synthesised to elaborate a resilience perspective on transformation. Transformations are identified as intertwined fundamental shifts in understanding and management of agroecosystem fertility. These transformations emerge from processes of self-organisation and social learning that are shaped by distinct contributions from key individuals across temporal and spatial scales. Innovation builds capacities to manage uncertain dynamics of agroecosystem fertility. Signals of social-ecological innovation are identified but are considered more akin to processes of adaptive management. These findings act as the foundations for a more nuanced set of issues to emerge. Transformations involve complex cross-scale interplay between small and large changes. It is the way in which these cross-scale dynamics work with each other, and the ways in which different capacities change, that informs a more grounded understanding of transformations in social-ecological systems.
Economic and Social Research Council
Natural Environment Research Council
PhD in Environment, Energy and Resilience