Ecosystems are complex adaptive systems that require flexible governance with the ability to respond to environmental feedback. We present, through examples from Sweden and Canada, the development of adaptive comanagement systems, showing how local groups self-organize, learn, and actively adapt to and shape change with social networks that connect institutions and organizations across levels and scales and that facilitate information flows. The development took place through a sequence of responses to environmental events that widened the scope of local management from a particular issue or resource to a broad set of issues related to ecosystem processes across scales and from individual actors, to group of actors to multiple-actor processes. The results suggest that the institutional and organizational landscapes should be approached as carefully as the ecological in order to clarify features that contribute to the resilience of social-ecological systems. These include the following: vision, leadership, and trust; enabling legislation that creates social space for ecosystem management; funds for responding to environmental change and for remedial action; capacity for monitoring and responding to environmental feedback; information flow through social networks; the combination of various sources of information and knowledge; and sense-making and arenas of collaborative learning for ecosystem management. We propose that the self-organizing process of adaptive comanagement development, facilitated by rules and incentives of higher levels, has the potential to expand desirable stability domains of a region and make social-ecological systems more robust to change.
To gain insights into the effects of adaptive governance on natural capital, we compare three well-studied initiatives; a landscape in Southern Sweden, the Great Barrier Reef in Australia, and fisheries in the Southern Ocean. We assess changes in natural capital and ecosystem services related to these social-ecological governance approaches to ecosystem management and investigate their capacity to respond to change and new challenges. The adaptive governance initiatives are compared with other efforts aimed at conservation and sustainable use of natural capital: Natura 2000 in Europe, lobster fisheries in the Gulf of Maine, North America, and fisheries in Europe. In contrast to these efforts, we found that the adaptive governance cases developed capacity to perform ecosystem management, manage multiple ecosystem services, and monitor, communicate, and respond to ecosystem-wide changes at landscape and seascape levels with visible effects on natural capital. They enabled actors to collaborate across diverse interests, sectors, and institutional arrangements and detect opportunities and problems as they developed while nurturing adaptive capacity to deal with them. They all spanned local to international levels of decision making, thus representing multilevel governance systems for managing natural capital. As with any governance system, internal changes and external drivers of global impacts and demands will continue to challenge the long-term success of such initiatives.
Cites: Curr Biol. 2008 Jun 24;18(12):R514-518579091
Cites: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Jul 15;105(28):9489-9418621698
Cites: Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2008 Jul 15;105(28):9477-8218621700
Ecosystems at high latitudes are highly dynamic, influenced by a multitude of large-scale disturbances. Due to global change processes these systems may be expected to be particularly vulnerable, affecting the sustained production of renewable wood resources and abundance of plants and animals on which local cultures depend. In this paper, we assess the implications of new understandings of high northern latitude ecosystems and what must be done to manage systems for resilience. We suggest that the focus of land management should shift from recovery from local disturbance to sustaining ecosystem functions in the face of change and disruption. The role of biodiversity as insurance for allowing a system to reorganize and develop during the disturbance and reorganization phases needs to be addressed in management and policy. We emphasize that the current concepts of ecological reserves and protected areas need to be reconsidered to developp dynamic tools for sustainable management of ecosystems in face of change. Characteristics of what may be considered as customary reserves at high latitudes are often consistent with a more dynamic view of reserves. We suggest new directions for addressing biodiversity management in dynamic landscapes at high latitudes, and provide empirical examples of insights from unconventional perspectives that may help improve the potential for sustainable management of biodiversity and the generation of ecosystem services.