Great Plains Natural Science Society


The Prairie Naturalist

Date of this Version


Document Type



The Prairie Naturalist- 44(1): June 2012


Published by the Great Plains Natural Science Society. Used by permission.


The practice of ecological restoration has long been a key element in the management of ecosystems, but it has only been since the 1980s that research on resource management has specifically studied this practice and its foundations in restoration ecology. One major focus of this research has been the application of the theories and methods of the social sciences to ecological restoration activities.

Fairly recently, the application of the social sciences to resource management, in general, and to ecological restoration, in particular, has been couched in the broadest of terms. Beginning in the 1990s, this application was expressed in terms of the human dimensions of resource management. The term "human dimensions" has generally been used to refer to the human and social aspects of

resource management. But in empirical research, the term has been used more specifically to refer to the study of these aspects based on applications of particular social science disciplines. Those human dimensions receiving the greatest attention in the research literature have included:

  • The psychology of human actors, as applied to the practice of resource management (e.g., their values, beliefs, attitudes, and behaviors as these relate to resource management);
  • The sociology of human interactions, groups, institutions, and networks as they relate to management organizations (e.g. the structures and processes of management agencies, private companies, non-governmental and nonprofit organizations, etc.);
  • The political science aspects of ecological restoration efforts, with a focus on political Institutions and processes for societal governance of natural resources in particular, the public sector allocation of resources to achieve societal goals, as well as the role of political power as a primary influence in those institutions and processes; and
  • The economics of resource management, whereby economic theory and research methods are applied to better understand the societal allocation of scarce resources, within a monetary and market context, and its impacts-with a specific focus on human values as expressed in monetary terms, and thus the economic benefits and costs (i.e., market and nonmarket impacts) of management activities.