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Bogs, Birds and Berries in Belarus: the multi-scale dynamics of wetlands sustainability initiatives in a top-down context
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Physical Geography.ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2325-1609
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Physical Geography.
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(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Wetlands are complex social-ecological systems, which provide both important habitat for species, and multiple ecosystem services for people. This diversity of perspectives places new demands on multi-level and multi-sector participation in governance and management arrangements for conservation, sustainable use and restoration. How can sustainable wetlands be achieved and managed in strong top-down governance contexts, such as in former Soviet republics? Using three case studies relating to wetland restoration (bogs), conservation (birds) and wild food production (berries) in Belarus, this study employs a complex systems approach to analyse core governance and management processes underpinning wetlands sustainability initiatives in Belarus. We identified five processes, viz. adequacy of plans and planning processes, garnering stakeholder support, the adequacy of several types of key inputs, management of activity rates, and the integration of adaptive learning and knowledge cycles. Although path dependent societal dynamics of the (post-)Soviet era continue to influence wetland systems, windows of opportunity precipitated the emergence of active participation among non-governmental actors. Major opportunities were identification of confluences of interest amongst stakeholders, as well as continued mutual integration of Belarus with the international community. Key constraints concerned institutional hierarchies, onerous regulations, “negativism”, and financing difficulties. Key strategies relating to perception management, risk mitigation, and learning are identified for reinforcing positive feedback loops relating to core processes.

Keywords [en]
Habitat restoration, Biodiversity conservation, Entrepreneurial innovation, Environmental governance and management, Sustainability strategies, Complex systems, Social-ecological system dynamics
National Category
Environmental Sciences Physical Geography
Research subject
Physical Geography
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-167027OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-167027DiVA, id: diva2:1295954
Funder
Swedish Research Council Formas, 2011-1737Swedish Research Council Formas, 2017:1342Swedish Institute, 10976/2013Available from: 2019-03-13 Created: 2019-03-13 Last updated: 2019-04-12Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Unravelling Sustainability: The complex dynamics of emergent environmental governance and management systems at multiple scales
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Unravelling Sustainability: The complex dynamics of emergent environmental governance and management systems at multiple scales
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis adopts a complex systems approach to investigate the dynamic emergence of sustainable environmental governance and management systems in multiple contexts in Europe. Accelerating rates of environmental degradation across the world have called the legitimacy of previous environmental governance and management arrangements into question. Top-down, linear optimisation approaches have failed to account for the inherent complexity of social-ecological systems, upon which human society is entirely reliant for long-term survival. Systemic interdependence between ecological and human systems underscores the “wicked” nature of environmental problems, which are characterised by multi-dimensional values and competing interests among stakeholders and actors at multiple levels and across divergent spatial and temporal scales. Sustainability objectives therefore mandate the evolution of new environmental governance and management systems that are capable of engaging with complexity and dynamism. Employing a methodology based on comprehensive literature assessment, case studies and qualitative systems modelling methods, this thesis clearly identifies the structurally complex systems within which studied environmental governance and management arrangements took place. However, the degree to which these systems indicated the emergence of integrated and/or adaptive approaches, proposed by recent sustainability theories, was more uneven across governance levels and contexts. Key constraints related to the continued dominance of top-down institutional and regulatory frameworks, the availability of adequate inputs (primarily financial) for new approaches and initiatives, socio-cultural influences, and to the complexity and concomitant uncertainty of social-ecological system dynamics. Identified opportunities from across cases related to supra-national institutions, a shift of value preferences amongst stakeholders, and the perverse opportunities arising from chronic environmental degradation and/or acute social/ecological crises. Strategies enabling emergent governance and management approaches included strengthening the legitimacy of new actors, actively managing and integrating the perceptions of stakeholders, learning by doing and sharing, and recruiting and enabling active, hybridised leadership. Importantly, key constraints and opportunities remain largely out of reach for actors and stakeholders at lower levels. Feedback mechanisms by which bottom-up initiatives can influence higher level institutional development are lacking, poorly understood, or are dominated by long delays. These dynamics impede sustainability transitions.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Physical Geography, Stockholm University, 2019. p. 98
Series
Dissertations in Physical Geography, ISSN 2003-2358 ; 1
Keywords
Integrated adaptive environmental governance and management, Social-ecological system dynamics, Complex systems, Sustainability transitions, Sustainability strategies, Multi-level governance, Causal loop diagrams, Green Infrastructure, Landscape restoration, Habitat restoration, Biodiversity conservation, Comprehensive planning, Stakeholder participation, System thinking, Water Framework Directive, Sustainable water governance, Collaborative learning, Communities of practice, Knowledge management
National Category
Physical Geography Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Physical Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-167024 (URN)978-91-7797-666-0 (ISBN)978-91-7797-667-7 (ISBN)
Public defence
2019-05-29, William-Olssonsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 14, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
Swedish Research Council Formas, 2011-1737
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 4: Manuscript.

Available from: 2019-05-06 Created: 2019-03-29 Last updated: 2019-05-23Bibliographically approved

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