Dr Nick Abel
Nick is an interdisciplinary scientist who works with stakeholders and policy makers on ways to understand and influence the direction and pace of change in social-ecological systems. His recent work is on systems impacted by economic and climatic change on Australia’s coast, in the Murray Darling Basin and Africa. It continues work that began with studies of human-wildlife-ecosystem interactions in Africa and Scotland, followed by research on the dynamics of African and Australian pastoral systems. He integrates theories and methods from ecology, political economy, psychology and behavioural and institutional economics within a resilience framework as he seeks practical measures to promote and guide regional scale adaptations, transitions and transformations. Potential measures include social networks, institutional change, information flows, leadership, lobbying, negotiation, conflict resolution and learning-by-doing. His understanding of social-ecological change and inertia have been deepened by long term political activism and observation of social change in southern Africa, the UK and Australia.
Nick was born in Zimbabwe, raised in Kenya, and has worked in Ethiopia, Botswana, Somalia, Swaziland, Zambia and Zimbabwe as well as Australia. Past employers are the CSIRO, the Universities of Canberra and East Anglia (UK), the International Livestock Centre for Africa, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, the Zambian National Parks and Wildlife Service, and British Voluntary Service Overseas. He has received awards for leadership from CSIRO, and innovative teaching from the University of Canberra, and is a founder member and fellow of the Resilience Alliance.
Suppose the members of a regional social-ecological system agreed that their current resource-use system could not be sustained through looming climatic and socio-economic shocks. Would they be able to agree upon and navigate a major and planned shift to a new and potentially sustainable resource-use system? I draw on political economy, institutional economics, social psychology, ecology and history as I try to explain what socio-political processes and conditions might be prerequisites for a successful shift. The research is also informed by concepts of resilience, path dependency, collapse, recovery, adaptation, transition and transformation. Initial attempts to answer the question have been located in coastal Queensland, the Murray Darling Basin and sub-Saharan Africa. Results show that much still needs to be done.
Prober, S, M. Colloff, N. Abel, S. Crimp, M. Doherty, M. Dunlop, D. Eldridge, R. Gorddard, S. Lavorel, D. Metcalf, H. Murphy, P. Ryan, K. William, 2017. Informing climate adaptation pathways in multi-use woodland landscapes using the values-rules-knowledge framework. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment, Volume 241, Pages 39-53
Abel, N., R. M. Wise, M. J. Colloff, B. H. Walker, J. R. A. Butler, P. Ryan, C. Norman, A. Langston, J. M. Anderies, R. Gorddard, M. Dunlop, and D. O’Connell. 2016. Building resilient pathways to transformation when “no one is in charge”: insights from Australia's Murray-Darling Basin. Ecology and Society 21(2):23. http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-08422-210223
Hill, R., C. Grant, M. George, C. Robinson, S. Jackson, and N. Abel. 2012. A typology of indigenous engagement in Australian environmental management: implications for knowledge integration and social-ecological system sustainability. Ecology and Society 17(1): 23. http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-04587-170123
Abel, N., Gorddard, R., Harman, B., Leitch, A., Langridge, J., Ryan, A., and Heyenga, S., 2011. Sea level rise, coastal development and planned retreat: analytical framework, governance principles and an Australian case study. Environmental Science and Policy. dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.envsci.2010.12.002
Biggs, D., Nick Abel, Andrew T. Knight, Anne Leitch, Art Langston, and Natalie C. Ban, 2011. The implementation crisis in conservation planning: could “mental models” help? Conservation Letters 00 1–15
Chapin F. S., Stephen Carpenter, Gary Kofinas, Carl Folke, Nick Abel, Per Olsson, M. Stafford Smith, Brian Walker, Oran Young, Fikret Berkes, Reinette Biggs, Morgan Grove, Rosamond Naylor, Evelyn Pinkerton, Will Steffen, Frederick Swanson, 2010. Resilience-Based Ecosystem Stewardship: Sustainability Strategies for a Rapidly Changing Planet . Trends in Ecology and Evolution, 25, 4, 241-249
Walker, B. H., N. Abel, J. M. Anderies, and P. Ryan. 2009. Resilience, adaptability, and transformability in the Goulburn-Broken Catchment, Australia. Ecology and Society 14(1): 12. [online] URL: http://www. ecologyandsociety.org/vol14/iss1/art12/
.McAllister, Ryan R J, Nick Abel, Chris J. Stokes, and Iain J. Gordon, 2006. Australian Pastoralists in Time and Space: The Evolution of a Complex Adaptive System. Ecology and Society Volume 11, No. 2.
McAllister, RRJ, Gordon, IJ, Janssen, MA, Abel, N. 2006. Pastoralists' responses to variation of rangeland resources in time and space. Ecological Applications 16(2), 572-583.
Gross, JE, McAllister, RRJ, Abel, N, Stafford Smith, DM, Maru, Y. 2006. Australian rangelands as complex adaptive systems: A conceptual model and preliminary results. Environmental Modelling and Software, 21(9), 1264-1272.
Abel, N., D. H. M. Cumming, and J. M. Anderies. 2006. Collapse and reorganization in social-ecological systems: questions, some ideas, and policy implications. Ecology and Society 11(1): 17
Walker, B. H., S. R. Carpenter, J. M. Anderies, N. Abel, G. S. Cumming, M. A. Janssen, L. Lebel, J. Norberg, G. D. Peterson, and R. Pritchard. 2002. Resilience management in social-ecological systems: a working hypothesis for a participatory approach. Conservation Ecology 6(1): 14.
Carpenter, S. R., B. H. Walker, M. A. Anderies, and N. A. Abel. 2001. From metaphor to measurement: resilience of what to what? Ecosystems 4:765-781.
Janssen, M.A., B. Walker, J. Langridge and N. Abel 2000. An adaptive agent model for analysing co-evolution of management and policies in a complex rangeland system. Ecological Modelling, Vol. 131 (2/3), 249-268.
Abel, N, Ross, H, and Walker, P, 1998. Mental models in rangeland research, communication and management. The Rangeland Journal, 20, 1, 77-91
Stafford Smith, D.M., Abel, N, Walker, B.H., 2009. Drylands: Coping with Uncertainty, Thresholds, and Changes in State. Pages 171-196 in Chapin, F.S., Kofinas, G.P., and Folke, C (eds). Principles of Ecosystem Stewardship: Resilience-based Natural Resource Management in a Changing World. Springer, New York.
Chapin F. S., Gary Kofinas, Carl Folke, Stephen Carpenter, Per Olsson, Nick Abel, Reinette Biggs, Rosamond Naylor, Evelyn Pinkerton, D.M. Stafford Smith, Will Steffen, Brian Walker, Oran Young, 2009. Resilience-based Stewardship: Strategies for Navigating Sustainable Pathways in a Changing World. Pages 319-338 in Chapin, F.S., Kofinas, G.P., and Folke, C (eds). Principles of Ecosystem Stewardship: Resilience-based Natural Resource Management in a Changing World. Springer, New York.
Stafford Smith, D.M. and Abel, N., 2003. Rangeland Institutions Over Time and Space. Pages 15-34 in Dovers, S., and Wild River, Su (Eds.). Managing Australia’s Environment. The Federation Press, Leichardt.
Abel N., Gachugu M., Langston A.C., Howden S.M., Freudenberger D. Howden, M and Marsden S. (2002). Policies, Planning and Institutions for Sustainable Resource Use: a Participatory Approach. Pages 221-234 in Grice, A, and Hodgkinson, K (eds). Global Rangelands: Progress and Prospects. CABI, Wallingford.
Abel, N, Langston, A., Ive,J., Tatnell, W., Howden, M., and Stol, J., (2002).. Institutional Change for Sustainable Land Use: a Participatory Approach from Australia. Pages 186-213 in M.A. Janssen (ed). Complexity and Ecosystem Management: The Theory and Practice of Multi-agent Approaches. Edward Elgar Publishers.
Walker, B. H., and Abel, N., (2002). Resilient Rangelands – Adaptation In Complex Systems. Chapter 11 in Gunderson, L., and C.S.Holling. Panarchy: Understanding Transformations in Human and Natural Systems. Island Press.
Walker, B.H., Abel, N., Stafford Smith, D.M., and Langridge, J., 2002. A Framework for the Determinants of Degradation in Arid Ecosystems. Pages 75-94 in Reynolds, J.F., and Stafford Smith, D.M., (eds.). Global Desertification: Do Humans Cause Deserts? Dahlem University Press, Berlin.
Ash, A.J., Stafford Smith, D.M., and Abel, N., 2002. Land Degradation and Secondary Production in Semi-arid and Arid Grazing Systems: What is the Evidence?. Pages 111-134 in Reynolds, J.F., and Stafford Smith, D.M., (eds.). Global Desertification: Do Humans Cause Deserts? Dahlem University Press, Berlin.
Robbins, P.F., Abel, N., Jiang, H., Mortimore, M., Mulligan, M., Okin G.S., Stafford Smith, D.M., and Turner, B.L., 2002. Desertification at the Community Scale: Sustaining Dynamic Human-environment Systems. Pages 325-356 in Reynolds, J.F., and Stafford Smith, D.M., (eds.). Global Desertification: Do Humans Cause Deserts? Dahlem University Press, Berlin.
Abel N., Ive J., Langston A., Tatnell D., Tongway D., Walker B. & Walker P. (2000). Resilience of NSW Rangelands: a framework for analysing a complex adaptive system. In Management for Sustainable Ecosystem (eds P. Hale, A. Petrie, D. Moloney & P. Sattler). Centre for Conservation Biology, University of Queensland, Brisbane. pp 58-70.
- Chapin F. S., Gary Kofinas, Carl Folke, Stephen Carpenter, Per Olsson, Nick Abel, Reinette Biggs, Rosamond Naylor, Evelyn Pinkerton, D.M. Stafford Smith, Will Steffen, Brian Walker, Oran Young, 2009. Resilience-based Stewardship: Strategies for Navigating Sustainable Pathways in a Changing World. Pages 319-338 in Chapin, F.S., Kofinas, G.P., and Folke, C (eds). Principles of Ecosystem Stewardship: Resilience-based Natural Resource Management in a Changing World. Springer, New York.
Deborah O’Connell, Nick Abel, Nicky Grigg, Yiheyis Maru, James Butler, Annette Cowie, Samantha Stone-Jovicich, Brian Walker, Russ Wise, Alice Ruhweza, Leonie Pearson, Paul Ryan, Mark Stafford Smith, 2016. Embedding resilience, adaptation and transformation into project design: Interim Guidelines. UN Environmental Program/ Global Environment Facility
Deborah O’Connell, Brian Walker, Nick Abel, Nicky Grigg, 2015. The Resilience, Adaptation and Transformation Assessment Framework: from theory to application. Discussion paper for the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel of the Global Environment Facility
Nicky Grigg, Nick Abel, Deborah O’Connell, Brian Walker, 2015. Resilience assessment desktop case studies in Thailand and Niger. Case studies for the Scientific and Technical Advisory Panel of the Global Environment Facility
Elizabeth Clark, Nick Abel, Tom Measham, Julian Morison, Lisa Rippin, 2009. Commercial fishing and aquaculture in northern Australia. Chapter 9 in Stone, P., J. Ward, R. Cresswell, and N. Abel, (eds), October. Northern Australia Land and Water Science Review. CSIRO, Canberra.
Tony Webster, Lisa Rippin, Julian Morison, Alexander Herr, Nick Abel, Bruce Taylor, Elizabeth Clark, Peter Stone. Irrigated agriculture: development opportunities and implications for northern Australia. Chapter 10 in Stone, P., J. Ward, R. Cresswell, and N. Abel, (eds), October. Northern Australia Land and Water Science Review. CSIRO, Canberra.
Elizabeth Clark, Nick Abel, Julian Morison, Lisa Rippin. Water‐based tourism and recreation in northern Australia. Chapter 11 in Stone, P., J. Ward, R. Cresswell, and N. Abel, (eds), October. Northern Australia Land and Water Science Review. CSIRO, Canberra.
Nick Abel, John Rolfe, 2009. Public and private conservation of aquatic systems in northern Australia: threats and opportunities. Chapter 12 in Stone, P., J. Ward, R. Cresswell, and N. Abel, (eds), October. Northern Australia Land and Water Science Review. CSIRO, Canberra.
Bruce Taylor, Nick Abel, Ben Harman, Sonja Heyenga, Judith Harvey and Rachel Williams 2008. Linking NRM and sustainable development at the community scale in the Avon River Basin. Final Report to the Avon Catchment Council. Sustainable Communities Initiative, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems
Frederieke Kroon, Nick Abel, James Butler, Art Langston 2008. Bio-economic valuation of ecosystem services: a proof of concept. Internal IVCF report, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems
James Butler, Frederieke Kroon, Nick Abel, Art Langston 2008. Valuing and marketing ecosystem services provided for fisheries from agricultural watercourses in the Clarence River, NSW. Wealth from Oceans internal report, CSIRO.
Brenda Dyack, John Rolfe, Judith Harvey, Deborah O’Connell and Nick Abel, 2007. Valuing recreation in the Murray: an assessment of the non-market recreational values at Barmah Forest and the Coorong. Water for a Healthy Country - CSIRO Flagship Project. CSIRO, Canberra.
N. Abel, J. Roberts, J. Reid, I. Overton, D. O’Connell, J. Harvey and S. Bickford, 2006. Barmah Forest: a Review of its values, Management Objectives and Knowledge Base. Report to the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority. CSIRO, Canberra.
N. Abel, S. Cork, R. Gorddard, J. Langridge, A. Langston, R. Plant, W. Proctor, P. Ryan, D. Shelton, B. Walker, and M. Yialeloglou, 2003. Natural Values: Exploring Options for Enhancing Ecosystem Services in the Goulburn Broken Catchment. CSIRO, The Myer Foundation, and Land and Water Australia. CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Canberra
Abel, N., Farrier, D., Tatnell, B. & Mooney, C., 1999. A rangeland enmeshed: the legal and administrative framework of the Western Division of New South Wales. Report to the Western Lands Review.
Nick Abel, Helen Ross, Ann Herbert, Michelle Manning, Paul Walker & Helen Wheeler, 1998. Mental Models & Communication in Agriculture. A report for the Rural Industries Research and Development Corporation. RIRDC Publication No 98/140
Abel, N, 1999. Resilient rangeland regions. Pages 21-30 in Eldridge, D, and Freudenberger, D (eds). People and Rangelands: Building the Future. VIth International Rangeland Congress. Townsville, July 19th-23rd.
Abel, N, and Gachugu, Mukii, 1999. Policy, planning and institutions for fostering sustainable use of rangelands. Pages 177-178 in Eldridge, D, and Freudenberger, D (eds). People and Rangelands: Building the Future. VIth International Rangeland Congress. Townsville, July 19th-23rd.