Series for Econics and Ecosystem Management

Econics is a transdisciplinary approach to studying the dynamics and functioning of ecological systems with the aim of deriving sustainable management solutions for natural resource-dependent socio-economic systems operating under global change. In ecosystem management the principal challenge is to work 'with the grain of nature' and not against it.


The Series for Econics and Ecosystem Management strives to provide solutions to problematic questions such as: How is the balance between efficiency and resilience achieved in sustainable ecological systems? How do they adapt to changing conditions? What lessons from ecosystem functioning can be learnt to inform sustainable development policy and action?


Edited by Pierre L. Ibisch and Peter R. Hobson

Centre for Econics and Ecosystem Management


Volume 1


Ibisch, P.L., L. Geiger & F. Cybulla 2012. Global Change Management: Knowledge Gaps, Blindspots and Unknowables. Nomos.


Managing global change not only requires best use of available knowledge but also competent handling of non-knowledge. Blindspots (unrecognized non-knowledge) are especially challenging. A team of 13 international authors reflects on related fundamental and applied issues in nature conservation, forest management, climate policy, and development cooperation.


The book comprises 9 chapters written by 13 authors from three countries and 7 institutions.



Presentation of the book by the first editor (photo C. Nowicki).
Lecture at book presentation in the framework of the anniversary event of the MSc. Global Change Management programme and meeting of the Advisory Board, 23 Nov. 2012.
Ibisch_lecture at book presentation_23_n[...]
PDF-Dokument [454.6 KB]



From the preface



Chapter 1 (Ibisch & Hobson) provides a general introduction to non-knowledge in the context of sustainability and global change management. It questions if effective global change and sustainability management can ever be evidence-based, and it postulates that non-knowledge illiteracy paradoxically is a major challenge to the knowledge society and education. It gives an overview over different forms of relevant non-knowledge and suggests approaches to non-knowledge assessments for sustainability and how to integrate non-knowledge into education curricula, working towards a new age of enlightenment. Global change managers would be tasked with preparing society for the increasingly uncertain challenges of the future. This would include an induction in adaptive management strategies for complex systems that are characterised by indeterministic tendencies and high risk.


Chapter 2 (Wibeck & Linnér)deals with public understanding of uncertainty in climate science and policy taking a closer look at how laypeople perceive and make sense of the non-knowledge about the topic. Based on original research with Swedish focus groups, among others, the authors conclude that the uncertainty about causes and consequences might not be the most pressing issues. Rather they see that the questions regarding the individual responsibility to mitigate climate change and the effectiveness of responses to climate change can be even more confusing. An implication for global change management would be to address more systematically the blindspots related to effectiveness of policies and measures tackling climate change.


Chapter 3 (Schwaab) discusses knowledge that is relevant to decision-making (‘decision-useful’), but which, for a variety of reasons, is still unknown, from the applied perspective of development cooperation. The recognition and elimination of blindspots, in the last decades, regularly triggered a series of paradigms shifts concerning development goals and measures. It is pointed out that in development cooperation, decisions often involve a high level of risk or uncertainty, and there are manifold reasons for this. Modern practices and tools, such as participatory and inclusive work minimize several blindspots. A key element of the German development agency’s (GIZ) approach to learning and knowledge management is to produce a cultural change towards greater openness and flexibility. The unexpected and surprising must not be seen as a disaster or disturbance.


Chapter 4 (Czornohus & Dobersalske) deals with the currently developing systems of knowledge conservation with a special emphasis on local knowledge. The relevance of this local knowledge seems to represent a knowledge-gap or actually a blindspot in the industrial world. Paradoxically, certain local knowledge (in developing countries) has been discovered as valuable source for industrial innovation. This does not only lead to its extraction but may even cause its destruction. After a long and intensive discourse on biopiracy and the conservation of intellectual property rights attached to biodiversity, many questions remain unsolved, and, apparently, legal instruments alone cannot guarantee the protection and maintenance of local knowledge.


Chapter 5 (Fähser) postulates that forest ecosystems are far too complex and frequently characterized by uncertainty and indeterminacy to be managed under the traditional deterministic and mechanistic forestry regime controlled by a few actors. Rather he calls for a black box approach acknowledging that forests are insufficiently understood systems and that forest management decisions are made under uncertainty. Forest management would have to be a method of adapting to nature with a nature-oriented approach and represent an open and participatory process. Drawing on the experience of almost two decades of implementing the concept of nature-oriented forest use in the communal forest of the city of Luebeck in northwestern Germany, it is shown that this kind of non-knowledge-based approach to natural resource management produces positive ecological and economic results.


Chapter 6 (Ibisch, Kreft & Hobson) specifically addresses how principles of adaptive cycle and complex system science can be applied to nature conservation, taking the European Natura 2000 protected area network as an example. It concludes that an adaptive and dynamic metasystemic management that does not overemphasize the study and steering of individual system components has clear advantages if compared to a more static object-systemic management. It includes a plea for building more complex conservation systems with a both institutionally and spatially more coherent integration of sub-systems.


Chapter 7 (Geiger, Kreft & Ibisch) starts with an analysis of faulty decision-making in management and introduces a practical approach to non-knowledge-based management of biodiversity conservation. The so-called MARISCO method strives for a consequent integration of vulnerability and risk management into adaptive management at conservation sites. It has been applied successfully in various countries and in different cultural contexts. The chapter also presents some lessons learned and outcomes of an application for the Sierra del Lacandón National Park in Guatemala.


Chapter 8 (Welp & Frost) analyzes how stakeholder dialogue exercises with diverse participants holding different bodies of knowledge can contribute to closing some knowledge gaps. It elaborates on how organisations can deal with non-knowledge especially in strategic decision-making. It calls for organisational learning that supports the assessment and management of risk related to global change. Scenarios and Bayesian Networks are discussed as tools of (non) knowledge management.


Chapter 9 (Hobson & Ibisch) introduces the concept that knowledge (management) is actually found in all natural systems contributing to an intelligence that is a critical factor of system sustainability. This econical approach integrates systemics, vulnerability and adaptation science and calls for acknowledging the advantages of heuristic decision-making in adapting to change and unknown outcomes of complex system functioning.


We hope that this publication contributes to a fruitful and transdisciplinary discourse about a more effective global change management and the corresponding role of science and knowledge management. May it help to generate a broader interest in sustainability-related non-knowledge and the corresponding tools for handling it.