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Seven Approaches to Manage Complex Coupled Human and Natural Systems: A Sustainability Toolbox

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journal contribution
posted on 08.08.2019, 15:35 by Zhongming Lu, Osvaldo A. Broesicke, Michael E. Chang, Junchen Yan, Ming Xu, Sybil Derrible, James R. Mihelcic, Ben Schwegler, John C. Crittenden
Since the publication of the Report of the World Commission on Environment and Development in 1987, there have been numerous studies on sustainability. These studies created new knowledge and tools for understanding and managing complex coupled human and natural systems. In this Critical Review, we used a topic modeling technique to analyze 12 526 peer-reviewed research articles and identify the research questions and the approaches that were used or developed in each of the studies. These approaches were then classified by function. The analysis revealed twenty-three categories of research questions and seven functional approach classesdesign for sustainability, modeling of complexity, sustainability indicators, life cycle sustainability assessment, decision making support, sustainability governance, and engagementeach of which is described here as an individual approach or tool within a larger sustainability toolbox. The article concludes with a discussion about using the sustainability toolbox as an integrated knowledge system to support transdisciplinary study and decision-making.