Future states, thresholds, and flows of services and benefits from social-ecological systems

November 23rd, 2021

Hinchinbrook Island and channel as seen from lookout near Cardwell, QLD.

Project duration

October 2021 to December 2025

The challenge

Image credit: Brigette Wright

A sustainable industry or community sits within a dynamic environment, society and economy and are faced with the need to rapidly adapt to accelerating climate change. Effective actions for sustainability transitions in dynamic social-ecological systems require an understanding of the times and places that action needs to be taken (before local or regional change is irreversible or catastrophic). Managers also need to identify thresholds beyond which actions would be much more costly to take. This project addresses two key challenges:

  • Can we develop robust and useable indicators or predictors of significant changes in flows of ecosystem services and benefits in dynamic social-ecological systems experiencing perturbations? 
  • Can we assess how close we are to social-ecological state changes, thresholds and tipping points in a way that is useful for management and decision-making?

Our response

Our proposed research fills critical knowledge gaps by developing proof-of-concept ecosystem-based models (both conceptual and for simulation). The model outputs will become tools and indicators that can be used by land and sea managers to plan for future social-ecological states, and to better understand feedbacks, tipping points and thresholds.


The knowledge and predictive ability developed in this project can help industries and communities to understand, plan for and manage future risks, towards achieving a sustainable future. Better predictions of social-ecological dynamics and interactions will assist land and sea managers in their day-to-day decisions and help make landscapes, seascapes and communities environmentally, socially and economically more resilient,

Team and Key Collaborators

CSIRO: Anna Richards (Project Leader), Katrina Szetey (Postdoctoral Fellow), Delphi Ward (Postdoctoral Fellow), Peter Baumgartner, Derek Fulton, Beth Fulton, Geoff Hosack, Adam Liedloff, Sarina Macfadyen, Jess Melbourne-Thomas, Claudia Munera, Andrea Powell, Suzanne Prober, Gabriela Scheufele, Rowan Trebilco, Ingrid van Putten

Collaborators: Tom Chandler (Monash), Brigette Wright (UTAS), Boho Interactive


Resilience + sustainability of socio-ecological networks