Landcover change is an important global change process affecting social–ecological system(s) (SES) worldwide. Human activities may directly and indirectly drive landcover change, and human populations may be directly and indirectly affected by it. Although uncertainties exist about the future of landcover change, uncertainties can be engaged strategically in the context of SESs thinking. One such means of strategic engagement involves evaluating and comparing case studies of regional human-driven landcover change—past, present, and potential future—in order to obtain a more holistic and place-based understanding of its social–ecological trajectories, causes, and consequences. Improved understanding of these aspects of regional landcover change could inform decisions and actions that increase the resilience of SESs to landcover change and related global change processes.

Current Status

This project assessed trajectories, causes, and consequences of past, present, and potential future landcover change in landscapes of Nebraska, U.S.A. in the context of SESs thinking. Through studies, a variety of methodological approaches—notably historical literature review, statistical modeling, machine learning, graph theory, and cellular automata—were utilized to improve understanding of past, present, and potential future human-driven landcover change in Nebraska landscapes, the direct and indirect relationships between landcover change and people, and the social–ecological tradeoffs associated with alternative landcover change trajectories.

Individually, findings are useful for increasing understanding of landscape, and SES-specific landcover change effects and for informing current and future landscape management. In such SES-specific contexts, emphasis on the short- and long-term effects of landcover change for human populations and ecosystems, as well as increasing awareness of their interdependencies, could assist decision-making through the consideration of the social–ecological tradeoffs associated with alternative landcover-based decisions and actions. In a broader sense, the utility of this project’s findings lies in the promotion and illustration of the engagement of social–ecological challenges like landcover change—and uncertainties about them—through the lens of SESs thinking.

Principal Investigator(s)
-Craig R. Allen, NE CFWRU

Graduate Student(s)
-Daniel Uden, Ph.D. (2017)

Project Duration
August 2012 - January 2017

-Nebraska Game and Parks Commission
- National Science Foundation IGERT Program

Project Location