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Nurturing resilience in social-ecological systems: Lessons learned from bridging organizations
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Systems Ecology. (Natural Resource Management)
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.
Keyword [en]
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: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-27503ISBN: 978-91-7155-892-3OAI: diva2:214516
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
List of papers
1. Enhancing ecosystem management through social-ecological inventories: lessons from Kristianstads Vattenrike, Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Enhancing ecosystem management through social-ecological inventories: lessons from Kristianstads Vattenrike, Sweden
2007 (English)In: Environmental Conservation, ISSN 0376-8929, Vol. 34, no 2, 140-152 p.Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Environmental policy increasingly emphasizes involvement of local users and land owners in ecosystem management, but conservation planning is still largely a bureaucratic-scientific endeavour of identifying biological values for protection. Neither biological inventories nor stakeholder analyses, that tend to focus on conflicting interests, capture human resources in the landscape or the social structures and processes underlying biological conservation values. Social-ecological inventories are therefore proposed during the preparation phase of conservation projects as a means to identify people with ecosystem knowledge that practise ecosystem management. The method presented here focuses on local steward groups acting outside official management plans. In a social-ecological inventory of a river basin of southern Sweden, local steward groups, their ecosystem management activities, motives and links to other actors involved in ecosystem management were identified through interviews, participatory observations and a review of documents and other written material. Several hundred active local stewards were organized in 10 local steward groups that managed and monitored a range of ecosystem services at different spatial scales. Contributions of local stewards included on-site ecosystem management, long-term and detailed monitoring of species and ecosystem dynamics, local ecological knowledge, public support for ecosystem management and specialized networks. Two conservation projects are used to illustrate how local steward groups came together in multi-level networks and collaborated around specific conservation issues. The projects have been linked to ecosystem management at the landscape level through a flexible municipality organization, the Ecomuseum Kristianstads Vattenrike (EKV). EKV has acted as a ‘bridging organization’, coordinating and connecting many of the local steward groups to organizations and institutions at other levels. The process has been guided by social capital and shared visions for the whole landscape. The study shows that ecosystem management likely relies on multi-level collaboration and social-ecological inventories may help identify actors that are fundamental in such management systems. Social-ecological inventories should be employed in any attempt to develop and implement ecosystem management.

ecosystem management, Kristianstads Vattenrike, local stewards, multi-level networks, participation, social-ecological inventory
National Category
Natural Sciences
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-21208 (URN)10.1017/S0376892907003876 (DOI)000249057100009 ()
Available from: 2007-12-06 Created: 2007-12-06 Last updated: 2009-05-11Bibliographically approved
2. Social Networks as Sources of Resilience in Social-Ecological Systems
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Social Networks as Sources of Resilience in Social-Ecological Systems
2008 (English)In: Complexity science for a sustainable future, Princeton University Press , 2008Chapter in book (Other (popular science, discussion, etc.))
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Princeton University Press, 2008
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-18831 (URN)
Available from: 2009-02-06 Created: 2009-02-06 Last updated: 2009-06-09Bibliographically approved
3. Powerless spectators, coping actors, and adaptive co-managers: a synthesis of the role of communities in ecosystem management
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Powerless spectators, coping actors, and adaptive co-managers: a synthesis of the role of communities in ecosystem management
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.

Adaptive co-management, community-based ecosystem management, governance, livelihoods, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-21218 (URN)
Available from: 2008-06-16 Created: 2008-06-16 Last updated: 2009-05-11Bibliographically approved
4. Learning for resilience?: Exploring learning opportunities in Biosphere Reserves
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Learning for resilience?: Exploring learning opportunities in Biosphere Reserves
2010 (English)In: Environmental Education Research, ISSN 1350-4622, E-ISSN 1469-5871, Vol. 16, no 5-6, 645-663 p.Article in journal (Other (popular science, discussion, etc.)) Published
Abstract [en]


The interdependence of society and nature, the inherent complexity of social-ecological systems, and the global deterioration of ecosystem services provide the rationale for a growing body of literature focusing on social-ecological resilience - the capacity to cope with, adapt to and shape change - for sustainable development. Processes of learning-by-doing and multiple-loop social learning across knowledge systems and different levels of decision-making are envisioned to strengthen this capacity, combined in the concept of adaptive governance. This study explores how learning for resilience is stimulated in practice; investigating learning opportunities provided in UNESCO-designated biosphere reserves (BRs). A global survey (N = 148) and qualitative interviews with key informants of selected BRs (N = 10) reveal that a subset (79) of the BRs serve as 'potential learning sites' and: (1) provide platforms for mutual and collective learning through face-to-face interactions; (2) coordinate and support the generation of new social-ecological knowledge through research, monitoring and experimentation; and (3) frame information and education to local stewards, resource-based businesses, policy-makers, disadvantaged groups, students and the public. We identify three BRs that seem to combine, in practice, the theoretically parallel research areas of environmental education and adaptive governance. We conclude that BRs have the potential to provide insights on the practical dimension of nurturing learning for social-ecological resilience. However, for their full potential as learning sites for sustainability to be realized, both capacity and incentives for evaluation and communication of lessons learned need to be strengthened.

learning, adaptive governance, sustainable development, biodiversity conservation, knowledge, environmental education
National Category
Natural Sciences Social Sciences
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-27523 (URN)10.1080/13504622.2010.505442 (DOI)
2Available from: 2009-05-06 Created: 2009-05-06 Last updated: 2011-02-21Bibliographically approved
5. Participation and management performance in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Participation and management performance in the World Network of Biosphere Reserves
(English)Manuscript (Other (popular science, discussion, etc.))
Abstract [en]

Studies that evaluate the effects of stakeholder participation on conservation outcomes and sustainability are rare. In this article we use the World Network of Biosphere Reserves to analyze the effects of participation and adaptive co-management in this context. Analyzing survey-responses from 146 Biosphere Reserves in 55 countries we investigate how different degrees of participation of a range of actors relate to management performance in reaching the objectives stated in UNESCO's Statutory framework for Biosphere Reserves. The analysis is based on survey respondents' self-evaluation of effectiveness. We also test to what extent stakeholder participation is linked to increased support for Biosphere Reserve objectives and management, and the effect of adaptive co-management on management performance. The analysis suggests that there is a weak, but significant linkage between the involvement of local inhabitants in decision making and implementation, and the support from people living in the Biosphere Reserve. No other effects of participation on support were found. Furthermore, involving local inhabitants in one additional implementation process increases the likelihood of finding a successful project that integrates conservation and development with about 1.4 times, and the participation of politicians and governmental administrators in one additional decision-making process increases the likelihood with about 1.3 times. No other effects of stakeholders' participation on successful integration were found. Turning to the issue of effectiveness, a factor analysis revealed two clusters among the objectives. One had strong loadings on effectiveness in conservation, research, monitoring and education, and was interpreted as related to 'conventional' biodiversity conservation. The other had strong loadings on fostering social and economic development, and facilitating dialogue, collaboration and integration of different objectives, and was interpreted as related to conservation for sustainable development. Conventional conservation was positively affected by participation of scientists, but negatively affected by participation of volunteers. Effectiveness in sustainable development goals was associated to participation by local inhabitants. Adaptive co-management practices were associated with a higher level of effectiveness in achieving developmental goals, and this higher effectiveness did not seem to be at the expense of biodiversity conservation. A total of 46 Biosphere Reserves fulfilled the adaptive co-management criteria and provide an interesting set of cases to follow systematically in the search for deeper understanding of social-ecological systems dynamics.

adaptive co-management, stakeholders, participation, effectiveness, biodiversity conservation, sustainable development
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-27524 (URN)
Available from: 2009-05-06 Created: 2009-05-06 Last updated: 2012-01-10Bibliographically approved

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