The concept of social–ecological systems is useful for understanding the interlinked dynamics of environmental and societal change. The concept has helped facilitate increased recognition of the dependence of humanity on ecosystems, improved collaboration across disciplines, and between science and society. The social-ecological systems concept has also increased methodological pluralism leading to improved systems understanding and major policy frameworks considering social–ecological interactions.

Despite these advances, the potential of a social–ecological systems perspective to improve sustainability outcomes has not been fully realized. Key priorities are to better understand and govern social–ecological interactions between regions and pay greater attention to long-term drivers. Also important is to develop a stronger science–society and to better understand the interactions among power relations, justice, and ecosystem stewardship interface.

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