How to model social-ecological systems? – A case study on the effects of a future offshore wind farm on the local society and ecosystem, and whether social compensation matters
Models of social-ecological systems (SES) are acknowledged as an important tool to understand human-nature relations. However, many SES models fail to integrate adequate information from both the human and ecological subsystems. With an example model of a future Offshore Wind Farm development and its effects on both the ecosystem and local human population, we illustrate a method facilitating a “balanced” SES model, in terms of including information from both subsystems. We use qualitative mathematical modeling, which allows to quickly analyze the structure and dynamics of a system without including quantitative data, and therefore to compare alternative system structures based on different understandings of how the system works. By including similar number of system variables in the two subsystems, we balanced the complexity between them. Our analyses show that this complexity is important in order to predict indirect and sometimes counterintuitive effects. We also highlight some conceptually important questions concerning social compensations during developmental projects in general, and wind farms in particular. Our results suggest that the more project holders get involved in various manner in the local socio-ecological system, the more society will benefit as a whole. Increased involvement through e.g. new projects or job-opportunities around the windfarm has the capacity to offset the negative effects of the windfarm on the local community. These benefits are enhanced when there is an overall acceptance and appropriation of the project. We suggest this method as a tool to support the decision-making process and to facilitate discussions between stakeholders, especially among local communities.