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Powerless spectators, coping actors, and adaptive co-managers: a synthesis of the role of communities in ecosystem management
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Systems Ecology.
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Systems Ecology.
2007 (Swedish)In: Ecology and Society, ISSN 1708-3087, Vol. 12, no 1, 29- p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

We provide a synthesis of the papers in the Special Issue, the Communities Ecosystems and Livelihoods component of the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), and other recent publications on the adaptive capacity of communities and their role in ecosystem management. Communities adapt because they face enormous challenges due to policies, conflicts, demographic factors, ecological change, and changes in their livelihood options, but the appropriateness of their responses varies. Based on our synthesis, three broad categories of adaptive communities are identified. “Powerless spectator” communities have a low adaptive capacity and weak capacity to govern, do not have financial or technological options, and lack natural resources, skills, institutions, and networks. “Coping actor” communities have the capacity to adapt, but are not managing social–ecological systems. They lack the capacity for governance because of lack of leadership, of vision, and of motivation, and their responses are typically short term. “Adaptive manager” communities have both adaptive capacity and governance capacity to sustain and internalize this adaptation. They invest in the long-term management of ecosystem services. Such communities are not only aware of the threats, but also take appropriate action for long-term sustainability. Adaptive co-management becomes possible through leadership and vision, the formation of knowledge networks, the existence or development of polycentric institutions, the establishment and maintenance of links between culture and management, the existence of enabling policies, and high levels of motivation in all role players. Adaptive co-managers are empowered, but empowerment is a consequence of the capacity for governance and the capacity to adapt, rather than a starting point. Communities that are able to enhance their adaptive capacity can deal with challenges such as conflicts, make difficult trade-offs between their short- and long-term well-being, and implement rules for ecosystem management. This improves the capacity of the ecosystem to continue providing services.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
2007. Vol. 12, no 1, 29- p.
Keyword [en]
Adaptive co-management, community-based ecosystem management, governance, livelihoods, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-21218OAI: diva2:187744
Available from: 2008-06-16 Created: 2008-06-16 Last updated: 2009-05-11Bibliographically approved
In thesis
1. Nurturing resilience in social-ecological systems: Lessons learned from bridging organizations
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Nurturing resilience in social-ecological systems: Lessons learned from bridging organizations
2009 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

In an increasingly complex, rapidly changing world, the capacity to cope with, adapt to, and shape change is vital. This thesis investigates how natural resource management can be organized and practiced to nurture this capacity, referred to as resilience, in social-ecological systems. Based on case studies and large-N data sets from UNESCO Biosphere Reserves (BRs) and the UN Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (MA), it analyzes actors and social processes involved in adaptive co-management on the ground. Papers I & II use Kristianstads Vattenrike BR to analyze the roles of local stewards and bridging organizations. Here, local stewards, e.g. farmers and bird watchers, provide on-site management, detailed, long-term monitoring, and local ecological knowledge, build public support for ecosystem management, and hold unique links to specialized networks. A bridging organization strengthens their initiatives. Building and drawing on multi-level networks, it gathers different types of ecological knowledge, builds moral, political, legal and financial support from institutions and organizations, and identifies windows of opportunity for projects. Paper III synthesizes the MA community-based assessments and points to the importance of bridging organizations, leadership and vision, knowledge networks, institutions nested across scales, enabling policies, and high motivation among actors for adaptive co-management. Paper IV explores learning processes catalyzed by bridging organizations in BRs. 79 of the 148 BRs analyzed bridge local and scientific knowledge in efforts to conserve biodiversity and foster sustainable development, provide learning platforms, support knowledge generation (research, monitoring and experimentation), and frame information and education to target groups. Paper V tests the effects of participation and adaptive co-management in BRs. Local participation is positively linked to local support, successful integration of conservation and development, and effectiveness in achieving developmental goals. Participation of scientists is linked to effectiveness in achieving ‘conventional’ conservation goals and policy-makers enhance the integration of conservation and development. Adaptive co-management, found in 46 BRs, is positively linked to self-evaluated effectiveness in achieving developmental goals, but not at the expense of conservation. The thesis concludes that adaptive collaboration and learning processes can nurture resilience in social-ecological systems. Such processes often need to be catalyzed, supported and protected to survive. Therefore, bridging organizations are crucial in adaptive co-management.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University, 2009. 50 p.
adaptive co-management, social-ecological resilience, local stewards, bridging organizations, learning, participation, Kristianstads Vattenrike, Biosphere Reserves, sustainable development, biodiversity conservation, ecosystem management
National Category
Natural Sciences
Research subject
Natural Resources Management
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-27503 (URN)978-91-7155-892-3 (ISBN)
Public defence
2009-06-04, Nordenskiöldsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 8 A, Stockholm, 10:00 (English)
Available from: 2009-05-14 Created: 2009-05-05 Last updated: 2009-06-09Bibliographically approved

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