Ambio: A Journal of the Human Environment

Coupling Socioeconomic and Lake Systems for Sustainability: A Conceptual Analysis Using Lake St. Clair Region as a Case Study

Aug 15, 2013

Author(s): Georgia Mavrommati

Applying sustainability at an operational level requires understanding the linkages between socioeconomic and natural systems. We identified linkages in a case study of the Lake St. Clair (LSC) region, part of the Laurentian Great Lakes system. Our research phases included: (1) investigating and revising existing coupled human and natural systems frameworks to develop a framework for this case study; (2) testing and refining the framework by hosting a 1-day stakeholder workshop and (3) creating a causal loop diagram (CLD) to illustrate the relationships among the systems’ key components. With stakeholder assistance, we identified four interrelated pathways that include water use and discharge, land use, tourism and shipping that impact the ecological condition of LSC. The interrelationships between the pathways of water use and tourism are further illustrated by a CLD with several feedback loops. We suggest that this holistic approach can be applied to other case studies and inspire the development of dynamic models capable of informing decision making for sustainability. Full report here.