Key concepts

Author: Eleni Briassoulis

KEY CONCEPTS (version 05-06-2012)

Land and Ecosystem Degradation and Desertification – an umbrella term used in LEDDRA to refer to situations of ecosystem degradation and/or land degradation and/or desertification.

Land degradation
Reduction or loss, in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas, of the biological or economic productivity and complexity of rainfed cropland, irrigated cropland, or range, pasture, forest and woodlands resulting from land uses or from a process or combination of processes, including processes arising from human activities and habitation patterns (UNCCD 1994).

Ecosystem degradation        
Degradation or destruction of large natural environments.

Land degradation in arid, semi-arid and dry sub-humid areas resulting from various factors, including climatic variations and human activities (UNCCD 1994)

Human responses to LEDD
Any type of formal (planned, institutionalized) or informal (unplanned, non-institutionalized) action in LEDD-affected regions that purports to (a) directly and explicitly tackle a LEDD problem or (b) to address other socio-economic problems as well as individual and collective goals. Responses to LEDD depend critically on WHO does WHAT, WHEN, WHERE and WHY (LEDDRA DoW 2010).

Response Assemblages (RA)
The actual combinations of response types and measures and the prevailing environmental, socio-economic and institutional conditions in a region under which they are employed. This definition expresses the thesis that responses to LEDD are contingent and contextual (LEDDRA DoW 2010).

Fit of responses to LEDD
The degree to which responses are well adapted to the biophysical and socio-economic, cultural and institutional conditions prevailing in a region. The criterion of fit will be the preservation of the socio-ecological resilience (LEDDRA DoW 2010).

Socio-ecological system (SES)
A coupled human-environment system; a multi-scale pattern of resource use around which humans have organized themselves in a particular social structure (distribution of people, resource management, consumption patterns, and associated norms and rules) (, accessed 10-07-2010).

Socio-ecological resilience (SER)
The capacity of a system to respond to disturbances and reorganize, while undergoing change, so as to preserve its critical functions, structure and feedbacks that do not foreclose future development options.

The capacity of a system to absorb disturbance and reorganize while undergoing change so as to still retain essentially the same function, structure and feedbacks - and therefore the same identity.

The capacity of the actors in a system to manage (improve or retain) resilience.

The capacity to create a fundamentally new system when the existing system is untenable.

A function of the exposure and sensitivity of a system to hazards or hazardous conditions, and the ability of that system to withstand, adapt to or recover from the effects of those conditions (Smit and Wandel 2006).

Community resilience
‘The ability of community members to take meaningful, deliberate, collective action to remedy the impact of a problem, including the ability to interpret the environment, intervene, and move on’ (Pfefferbaum, 2005).

Ecosystem resilience
The capacity of an ecosystem to tolerate disturbance without collapsing into a qualitatively different state that is controlled by a different set of processes (, accessed on 08-10-2010).

Ecosystem services
Ecosystem services are the benefits people obtain from ecosystems. These include provisioning services such as food and water; regulating services such as flood and disease control; cultural services such as spiritual, recreational, and cultural benefits; and supporting services, such as nutrient cycling, that maintain the conditions for life on Earth (ΜΕΑ 2005).

Complex Adaptive System
A dynamic network of many agents (which may represent cells, species, individuals, firms, nations) acting in parallel, constantly acting and reacting to what the other agents are doing (cited in Waldrop 1992).

Adaptive capacity
The ability of a social-ecological system to cope with novel situations without losing options for the future (Folke et al. 2002)

Ecosystem approach
An integrated approach to the study of human-environment interactions; recognizes that people are an integral part of their ecosystems and the mutual dependence of one’s upon the other’s welfare (UNEP/CBD/COP5 2000).

Natural capital
Natural capital refers to those aspects of the natural environment that deliver socio-economic value through ecosystem services. For example, wetlands provide water treatment and purification services; prevent floods by retaining surface runoff; and provide wildlife habitat. Natural capital exists alongside, and often underpins, man-made capital (GLOBE, 2010).

Social capital
The value of social networks, bonding similar people and bridging between diverse people, with norms of reciprocity (Dekker and Uslaner 2001; Uslaner 2001).

Sustainable land management
Sustainable land management (SLM) is defined as a knowledge-based combination of technologies, policies and practices that integrate land, water, biodiversity, and environmental concerns (including input and output externalities) to meet rising food and fi bre demands while sustaining ecosystem services and livelihoods (United Nations 1987; Wood and Dumanski, 1994;World Bank, 2006).

Liniger et al. (2008) define SLM as “The use of land resources, including soils, water, animals and plants, for the production of goods to meet changing human needs, while simultaneously ensuring the long-term productive potential of these resources and the maintenance of their environmental functions”.

A purposeful course of action, comprising a long series of more-or-less related activities, which governments pursue to reach goals and objectives related to a problem or matter of concern and to produce certain results … A policy is not a single, discrete, unitary, disembodied phenomenon, but a series of decisions. It concerns what is actually done (or not done) as opposed to what is proposed or intended…; policy implementation and enforcement complete the actual policy process. Essential constituent elements of a policy are its object …, interested and/or involved actors, their goals …, the resources and means available, the instruments used to achieve the goals set and the implementation mechanisms (Briassoulis 2005, 21-22).

A continuous process of managing the economic, social, environmental and political affairs of society. State and non-state actors, at various levels, interact in the process of setting societal (collective) goals and deciding how to intervene, through specific mechanisms and structures of coordination, to steer society towards achieving them (Briassoulis, 2008).

Local Environmental Knowledge
Local (or traditional) ecological knowledge (LEK/TEK) consists of biophysical observations, skills, and technologies, as well as social relationships, such as norms and institutions, that structure human-environmental interactions. LEK/TEK is transferred from one generation to the next, representing cumulative local knowledge, but is modified and amended as a result of new experiences and observations as well as the incorporation of external inputs. TEK is specific to particular places and groups of people’ (adapted from Fernandez-Gimenez, 2000, p. 1318).

2014-11-28 10:48:42