Mangroves in La Paz, Mexico | Photo: Martin Zimmer

Knowledge Systems and Ecosystem Design

PA4 generates the knowledge to project the potential ecosystem services into the future and to create or regenerate healthy and resilient ecosystems that provide ecosystems services as required by the society.

Ecosystem design entails the implementation of novel ecosystems in degraded areas as well as the steering of existing ecosystems and their use, in order to sustain or improve ecosystem service-provisioning and ensure the sustainable use of these services. Knowledge Systems provide the societal context for making sense of the ecosystem and designing them accordingly.

Coastal ecosystems are the very basis for livelihood and well-being of coastal societies. The management and sustainable use of their natural resources requires sound knowledge of the structure and functioning of these ecosystems, as well as knowledge of their response to environmental change. The negotiation and contestation of the 'reality' of ecosystems – be they natural, managed, or designed – and of societal resource use and governance pose an immense challenge to society globally. The degrees of uncertainties in assessing environmental changes showcase the need for empirically based governance frameworks and management systems that ensure sustainable ecosystem use. PA4 addresses this challenge by studying topics that are fundamental for maintaining and re-establishing ecosystem service-provisioning through knowledge-based management and conservation-planning, governance and ecosystem design. We will study in parallel ecosystem processes that drive ecosystem services and knowledge systems that determine the society's perception of ecosystems.  The societal prioritisation of ecosystem services will be assessed, and the respective fulfilment of these interests through ecosystem design explored.

Approaches of ecosystem management, conservation and design will have to be negotiated (i.e. among governments, local users and stakeholders, opposing and competing interest groups etc.) in the light of the ecosystem services required locally, regionally and globally. The discursive and social construction of these approaches and ecosystem-specific epistemologies and knowledge systems will drive ecosystem design, conservation and management practices. Along this line, ecosystem design will go beyond restoration or protection, as it is centred around the needs (ecosystem services) of society. Ecosystem design will rely on the intervention for better livelihood and well-being, spatial conservation planning and prioritisation which will take into account predictions in space and time of ecosystem structure, integrity and services and societal needs for these services.