Interactive visual syntheses for social-ecological systems understanding
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Research synthesis
land use
biodiversity conservation
human wellbeing

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Martin, D. A., Pham-Truffert, M., Gillham, L., Andriamihaja, O. R. ., Andriatsitohaina, R. N. N. ., Diebold, C. L. ., Fulgence, T. R. ., Kellner, E., Llopis, J. C., Messerli, P., Rakotomalala, A. A. N. A. ., Raveloaritiana, E., Wurz, A., Zähringer, J. G. ., & Heinimann, A. (2024). Interactive visual syntheses for social-ecological systems understanding. Socio-Environmental Systems Modelling, 6, 18637.


Many social-ecological systems are in an unsustainable state. Bringing together disjunct published findings on complex interactions in social-ecological systems may enable the identification of leverage points for transformations towards sustainability. However, such interdisciplinary synthesis studies on specific regional social-ecological systems remain rare. Here, we pair a review of systematically identified studies with a cross-impact analysis to create an interactive visual social-ecological systems synthesis on conflicts and synergies between land use, biodiversity conservation, and human wellbeing in north-eastern Madagascar. The interactive visual synthesis ( depicts an archetypical regional landscape with 22 factors comprising physical landscape elements, ecosystem services, wellbeing, human activities, and telecouplings. To understand the connections between these factors, we assess directional causal links based on literature sources. The visual synthesis shows that research has so far focused on links between land use and biodiversity while links to human wellbeing were studied more seldomly. We then identify chains and cycles that emerge from the links between factors and rate them based on their plausibility and relevance. All eight top-rated chains and cycles relate to subsistence and commercial agriculture, revealing promising leverage points at which interventions could improve outcomes for biodiversity and wellbeing. In sum, we show how interactive visual syntheses can be a useful way to make disjunct published findings on regional social-ecological systems more accessible, to find research gaps, and to identify leverage points for sustainability transformations.

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Copyright (c) 2024 Dominic A. Martin, Myriam Pham-Truffert, Lara Gillham, O. Ravaka Andriamihaja, R. Ntsiva N. Andriatsitohaina, Clara L. Diebold, Thio Rosin Fulgence, Elke Kellner, Jorge Claudio Llopis, Peter Messerli, Anjaharinony A. N. A. Rakotomalala, Estelle Raveloaritiana, Annemarie Wurz, Julie G. Zaehringer, Andreas Heinimann