Colorado mountains
From Long-Term Data to Understanding: Toward a Predictive Ecology
2015 LTER ASM Estes Park, CO - August 30 - September 2, 2015

The emergence of wicked problems in coupled human and natural systems: contributions of the LTER

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Environmental issues in coupled human and natural systems (CHANS) can be characterized as wicked problems when: there is no single definition of the issues; no definitive and optimal solution exists: and proposed solutions create unintended secondary problems at different spatio-temporal scales and in different domains. Because wicked problems always occur in a social context, they have been largely overlooked by natural scientists.  Several LTER sites address broad environmental issues falling under this category, including, but not limited to, the interactions between climate change, fires, insect outbreaks, and land use change in forested landscapes; ecosystem services and public health; water sustainability and climate change. However, to date, there has been no coordinated effort to contribute to general principles for policy, technology, and management action and implementation when addressing wicked problems. Since 2014, a transdisciplinary ad hoc group has informally explored the development of a general approach to characterize and address wicked problems from local to global scales. Current partners in the existing ad hoc group include participants in MtSeon, NEON, CHANS-NET, and the ILTER (France, Germany, Poland, and the US), as well as non-LTER projects in Brazil, Canada, Mexico, Switzerland, and the US. 

Goals of the workshop

The goal of the workshop is to characterize the contributions of relevant LTER sites to the existing efforts on the study of wicked problems focusing on: the development of a general CHANS framework that includes the interactions between environmental and socio-economic dynamics, and the forecast of the effects of these interactions on CHANS dynamics, ecosystem services and sustainability; the characterization of wicked problems across the globe and of their potential interactions; the formulation of a process to identify when an environmental issue becomes a wicked problem; and outlining the implications for ecosystem management.

Outcomes of the workshop

The outcomes of the session will be:

·      Identification of specific steps (study areas, topics, etc.) and benchmarks to implement an initiative to characterize     and address wicked problems in CHANS

·      The steps towards the formal creation of an international working group based on the existing ad hoc partnership on the study of wicked problems

·      Identification of opportunities to fund different aspects of the work

Patrick Bourgeron
Henry Loescher
James Gosz
Number of 2 hour sessions requested: 
Equipment requested: 
Screen, projector, easel
Additional Comments: 
Reading material will be provided before the workshop.
Room Assignment: 
Longs Peak Keyhole – (Capacity 110)