Addressing the challenges of research on human-wildlife interactions using the concept of Coupled Natural & Human Systems

Krishna N. Balasubramaniam, Eliza Bliss-Moreau, Brianne A. Beisner, Pascal R. Marty, Stefano S.K. Kaburu, Brenda McCowan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


With the global expansion of human populations, research on human-wildlife interactions (HWIs) has become increasingly important in conservation science. Despite its growing importance, such research faces challenges that include a bias towards evaluating wildlife- compared to human-related aspects of interactions, limited focus on the complexity of HWIs and their effects, assessments of more observable compared to hidden/subtle effects, and the lack of comparative studies. Here we review how the Coupled Natural and Human Systems (CNHS) approach has been useful to address these challenges. We demonstrate the relative dearth in studies that have implemented CNHS approaches in the context of HWIs, compared to human interactions with biophysical, abiotic, and other biotic natural systems. We next review conceptual CNHS frameworks implemented to model HWIs, their structural and functional similarities and differences, and reveal how they help to address some, but not all, of the afore-mentioned challenges. We then construct a general, integrated conceptual framework for human-wildlife CNHS borrowing elements from pre-existing frameworks, which includes a standardized designation/nomenclature of CNHS components and their relationships and builds on pre-existing frameworks by placing a greater emphasis on less visible outcomes of HWIs that remain under-represented in the CNHS literature. We discuss the potential and scope of this integrated framework in terms of its usefulness to address the above challenges, and the importance of moving human-wildlife CNHS frameworks from merely providing conceptual platforms towards their analytical utility as single ‘whole’ systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number109095
JournalBiological Conservation
StatePublished - May 2021


  • Comparative studies of HWIs
  • Coupled Natural and Human Systems
  • Hidden/subtle outcomes
  • Human and wildlife health
  • Human-wildlife interactions
  • Implicit and explicit attitudes and experiences

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Nature and Landscape Conservation


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