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Sustainability 2018, 10(9), 3294; https://doi.org/10.3390/su10093294

The Social-Ecological Keystone Concept: A Quantifiable Metaphor for Understanding the Structure, Function, and Resilience of a Biocultural System

1
Hawai‘i Institute of Marine Biology, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Kāne‘ohe, HI 96744, USA
2
Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Management, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA
3
National Tropical Botanical Garden, Kalāheo, HI 96741, USA
4
Department of Tropical Plant and Soil Sciences, University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa, Honolulu, HI 96822, USA
5
Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, MB R3T 2N2, Canada
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Received: 31 July 2018 / Revised: 7 September 2018 / Accepted: 11 September 2018 / Published: 14 September 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Biocultural Restoration in Hawaiʻi)
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Abstract

Social-ecological system theory draws upon concepts established within the discipline of ecology, and applies them to a more holistic view of a human-in-nature system. We incorporated the keystone concept into social-ecological system theory, and used the quantum co-evolution unit (QCU) to quantify biocultural elements as either keystone components or redundant components of social-ecological systems. This is done by identifying specific elements of biocultural diversity, and then determining dominance within biocultural functional groups. The “Hawaiian social-ecological system” was selected as the model of study to test this concept because it has been recognized as a model of human biocomplexity and social-ecological systems. Based on both quantified and qualified assessments, the conclusions of this research support the notion that taro cultivation is a keystone component of the Hawaiian social-ecological system. It further indicates that sweet potato cultivation was a successional social-ecological keystone in regions too arid to sustain large-scale taro cultivation, and thus facilitated the existence of an “alternative regime state” in the same social-ecological system. Such conclusions suggest that these biocultural practices should be a focal point of biocultural restoration efforts in the 21st century, many of which aim to restore cultural landscapes. View Full-Text
Keywords: alternative regime state; portable biocultural toolkit; social-ecological system theory; Hawaii; Colocasia esculenta alternative regime state; portable biocultural toolkit; social-ecological system theory; Hawaii; Colocasia esculenta
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Winter, K.B.; Lincoln, N.K.; Berkes, F. The Social-Ecological Keystone Concept: A Quantifiable Metaphor for Understanding the Structure, Function, and Resilience of a Biocultural System. Sustainability 2018, 10, 3294.

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