Integrating socio-economics and ecology: A taxonomy of quantitative methods and a review of their use in agro-ecology

Ira R. Cooke, Simon A. Queenborough, Elizabeth H. A. Mattison, Alison P. Bailey, Daniel L. Sandars, A. R. Graves, J. Morris, Philip W. Atkinson, Paul Trawick, Robert P. Freckleton, Andrew R. Watkinson, William J. Sutherland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


1. Answering many of the critical questions in conservation, development and environmental management requires integrating the social and natural sciences. However, understanding the array of available quantitative methods and their associated terminology presents a major barrier to successful collaboration. 2. We provide an overview of quantitative socio-economic methods that distils their complexity into a simple taxonomy. We outline how each has been used in conjunction with ecological models to address questions relating to the management of socio-ecological systems. 3. We review the application of social and ecological quantitative concepts to agro-ecology and classify the approaches used to integrate the two disciplines. Our review included all published integrated models from 2003 to 2008 in 27 journals that publish agricultural modelling research. Although our focus is on agro-ecology, many of the results are broadly applicable to other fields involving an interaction between human activities and ecology. 4. We found 36 papers that integrated social and ecological concepts in a quantitative model. Four different approaches to integration were used, depending on the scale at which human welfare was quantified. Most models viewed humans as pure profit maximizers, both when calculating welfare and predicting behaviour. 5. Synthesis and applications. We reached two main conclusions based on our taxonomy and review. The first is that quantitative methods that extend predictions of behaviour and measurements of welfare beyond a simple market value basis are underutilized by integrated models. The second is that the accuracy of prediction for integrated models remains largely unquantified. Addressing both problems requires researchers to reach a common understanding of modelling goals and data requirements during the early stages of a project.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)269-277
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Applied Ecology
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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