Leveraging federalism for flexible and robust management of social-ecological systems

Charles Sims, Paul R. Armsworth, Julie Blackwood, Ben Fitzpatrick, David M. Kling, Suzanne Lenhart, Michael Neubert, Monica Papeş, James Sanchirico, Katriona Shea, Michael Springborn

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Managing social-ecological systems (SES) requires balancing the need to tailor actions to local heterogeneity and the need to work over large areas to accommodate the extent of SES. This balance is particularly challenging for policy since the level of government where the policy is being developed determines the extent and resolution of action. We make the case for a new research agenda focused on ecological federalism that seeks to address this challenge by capitalizing on the flexibility afforded by a federalist system of governance. Ecological federalism synthesizes the environmental federalism literature from law and economics with relevant ecological and biological literature to address a fundamental question: What aspects of SES should be managed by federal governments and which should be allocated to decentralized state governments? This new research agenda considers the bio-geo-physical processes that characterize state-federal management tradeoffs for biodiversity conservation, resource management, infectious disease prevention, and invasive species control. Read the free Plain Language Summary for this article on the Journal blog.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)446-454
Number of pages9
JournalPeople and Nature
Issue number2
StatePublished - Apr 2023

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics

Cite this