We defined Socio-Ecosystem Functional Types (SEFTs) as “patches of the land surface that share both similar dynamics of matter and energy exchanges between the biota and the physical environment, and similar socioeconomic and cultural patterns and dynamics”. SEFTs will provide a new framework that integrates functional characterizations of the biosphere and anthroposphere into an operational model suitable for monitoring sustainability in the Anthropocene. SEFTs will hence contribute to narrow the historical gap between the social and the natural sciences cultures, and to address several of the major questions in sustainability science to meet the great environment and development challenges of this century.

General objective:

The overall goal of this proposal is to develop a conceptual and methodological framework to identify and map Socio-Ecosystem Functional Types as a way to provide an integrative functional characterization of both the biophysical and human components of the social-ecological system that can be used for Earth System and ecosystem services modelling.

Specific objectives:

  1. To enhance current approaches that identify Ecosystem Functional Types to capture carbon, radiation, heat, and water exchanges, incorporating a hierarchical scheme from the local to global scales.
  2. To identify the key processes that provide a functional characterization of socio-cultural and economic patterns and dynamics that operate in the land surface.
  3. To explore and select feasible functional variables and indicators that offer an integrative description of such processes at a landscape scale.
  4. To develop a conceptual and methodological framework that integrates the biophysical, socioeconomic and cultural functional attributes into a functional classification of social-ecological systems.
  5. To offer some proofs of concept of the proposed methodology by applying it in regions with contrasting biophysical, socioeconomic and cultural contexts.