History as grounds for interdisciplinarity: promoting sustainable woodlands via an integrative ecological and socio-cultural perspective

Heather Anne Swanson, Jens Christian Svenning, Alark Saxena, Robert Muscarella, Janet Franklin, Matteo Garbelotto, Andrew S. Mathews, Osamu Saito, Annik E. Schnitzler, Josep M. Serra-Diaz, Anna L. Tsing

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

13 Scopus citations


While calls for interdisciplinary research in environmental contexts are common, it often remains a struggle to integrate humanities/qualitative social sciences insights with those of bio-physical approaches. We propose that cross-disciplinary historical perspectives can open new avenues for collaboration among social and natural scientists while expanding visions of possible future environments and management scenarios. We make these arguments through attention to woodlands, which are under pressure from complex socio-ecological stressors that can best be understood from interdisciplinary perspectives. By combining deep ecological and shallower social historical approaches, we show how history can both enrich our understandings of woodland pasts and provide a ground for better combining the case-based insights of humanistic history with those of deep-time ecological history. We conclude that such interdisciplinary historical approaches are important not only for research, but also for management (especially rewilding and scenario-building), as the surprisingly large range of past changes reminds us that future conditions can be more varied than typically acknowledged. This Perspective proposes that cross-disciplinary historical approaches can assist in improving collaborations among social and natural scientists and in expanding environmental management imaginaries. Through the example of woodlands, we illustrate how combining natural science insights on deep-time changes with social science research on histories of commercialization and industrialization can generate better understandings of socio-ecological dynamics. We emphasize that qualitative historical case studies have a place alongside other approaches in broadening visions of woodland futures via attention to pasts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)226-237
Number of pages12
JournalOne Earth
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 19 2021


  • case study approaches
  • forest management
  • historical perspectives
  • natural science-social science collaborations
  • woodlands sustainability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Environmental Science
  • Earth and Planetary Sciences (miscellaneous)


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