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Biocomplexity in Coupled Human-Natural Systems: The Study of Population and Environment Interactions


Walsh, Stephen J. & McGinnis, D. (2008). Biocomplexity in Coupled Human-Natural Systems: The Study of Population and Environment Interactions. GeoForum, 39(2), 773-775.


The commonality in the papers invited to this Special Issue is the complexity theory context, the integrative nature of the studies, their inclusion in the Biocomplexity and/or Coupled Natural-Human Systems Programs of the US National Science Foundation (NSF), representation of scholars from the social, natural, and spatial sciences, and emphasis in linking patterns to processes in complex settings in which systems are dynamic, nonlinear, and adaptive. The study of coupled natural-human systems moves beyond normal nature-society concepts as it looks at emergence and other complexity theory contributions (An et al., 2005). Too often, physical geographers have isolated nature without human contexts. Human geographers, too, have had difficulty in merging their theories into computer models and physical systems thinking. The authors in this issue strive to overcome these problems as the funding agency challenged grant recipients to specifically address systems thinking and to analyze the feedback mechanisms inherent in coupled systems. The combination of human and physical geography interests and paradigms became a focal point for many of these investigations. While many of the findings reported in this issue relate more to changes in physical systems, the concomitant changes in human systems are also documented. The geographic aspects of complexity theory, social dynamics, and coupled natural-human systems are emerging as a fundamental component of our ability to describe how the natural and human environments intersect (Evans and Kelly, 2004, Messina and Walsh, 2005).


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Walsh, Stephen J.
McGinnis, D.