Social-Ecological Experiments to Foster Agroecological Transition
Sustainable agriculture is essential to provide food security for a growing world population without further sacrificing the integrity of the environment. To make progress towards agricultural sustainability we must consider ecological and socioeconomic processes within the agricultural socio-ecosystem and involve stakeholders in the research process. We propose an innovative experimental approach for examining how natural regulation of ecosystems may provide an alternative to increasing
... o increasing external inputs in agriculture while improving the socio-economic welfare of farmers. These “social-ecological experiments” go further to participatory action research by not only involving stakeholders in the research process but also by manipulating simultaneously socioeconomic and ecological processes under real field conditions to give a faster route to sustainability. Social-ecological experiments are undertaken in real field conditions, explicitly involving stakeholders, and help untangle the drivers of social-ecological dynamics under various land management and farming practices. Social-ecological experiments are distinct from adaptive management and scenario-planning approaches as they highlight the interactions between ecological and social processes, manipulate the social and ecological processes shaping the system and show causal links between patterns and processes. As an example, we describe a social-ecological experiment for reducing herbicide use. Social-ecological experiments offer great opportunities for increasing stakeholders’ acceptance of environmental policies implemented through adaptive management. These experiments may help to identify management practices that optimize multiple objectives, deliver a portfolio of ecosystem services and satisfy key stakeholders.