Academic journal article Human Ecology

Trust-Building, Knowledge Generation and Organizational Innovations: The Role of a Bridging Organization for Adaptive Comanagement of a Wetland Landscape around Kristianstad, Sweden

Academic journal article Human Ecology

Trust-Building, Knowledge Generation and Organizational Innovations: The Role of a Bridging Organization for Adaptive Comanagement of a Wetland Landscape around Kristianstad, Sweden

Article excerpt

Published online: 18 July 2006

[c] Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2006

Abstract The literature on ecosystem management and assessment is increasingly focusing on social capacity to enhance ecosystem resilience. Organizational flexibility, participatory approaches to learning, and knowledge generation for responding adequately to environmental change have been highlighted but not critically assessed. The small, flexible municipal organization, Ecomuseum Kristianstads Vattenrike (EKV) in southern Sweden, has identified win-win situations and gained broad support and legitimacy for ecosystem management among a diversity of actors in the region. Navigating the existing legal-political framework, EKV has built a loose social network of local stewards and key persons from organizations at municipal and higher societal levels. As a 'bridging organization', EKV has created arenas for trust-building, knowledge generation, collaborative learning, preference formation, and conflicts solving among actors in relation to specific environmental issues. Ad hoc projects are developed as issues arise by mobilizing individuals from the social network. Our results suggest that the EKV approach to adaptive comanagement has enhanced the social capacity to respond to unpredictable change and developed a trajectory towards resilience of a desirable social-ecological system.

Key words Social-ecological systems * resilience * adaptive comanagement * collaborative learning * organizational innovation * ecosystem management.


Social and economic development relies on the support of dynamic and functioning ecosystems generating valuable goods and services ( Resilience--the capacity to buffer, adapt to and shape change--has emerged as a crucial concept in the search for understanding complex ecosystem dynamics (Holling, 1973). Sustaining and enhancing ecosystem resilience is a function of successful ecosystem management and this in turn rests on the social capacity to understand and respond to environmental feedback over time as well as space (Berkes and Folke, 1998). (1)

We focus on the dynamic interplay of ecological and social systems, which we term social-ecological systems (Berkes et al., 2003; Folke et al., 2002; Gunderson and Holling, 2002). Our concern is resilience in social-ecological systems, which is determined by ecological dynamics as well as the social capacity to respond to and shape ecosystem change in a fashion that sustains and enhances the ecological preconditions for human societies. The question is how to sustain or develop a desired social-ecological trajectory (Carpenter et al., 2001) in the face of change and uncertainty (Folke et al., 2003). This has been referred to as adaptive governance of ecosystems or social-ecological systems (Dietz et al., 2003; Eckerberg and Joas, 2004; Folke et al., 2005; Ostrom, 2005).

Advocating an adaptive ecosystem approach, Boyle et al.(2001) suggest a triad of activities, where governance is the process of resolving tradeoffs and providing a vision and direction for sustainability, management is the operationalization of this vision, and monitoring provides feedback and synthesizes the observations to a narrative of how the situation has emerged and might unfold in the future. In a recent review (Folke et al., 2005) we concluded that successful adaptive approaches for ecosystem management under uncertainty involve (Fig. 1):

1) building knowledge and understanding of resource and ecosystem dynamics; detecting and responding to environmental feedback in ways that enhances resilience requires knowledge of ecosystem processes and functions. Hence, managers need to mobilize all sources of understanding to reduce ecological illiteracy. This involves linking people and steward organizations with different knowledge systems (Gadgil et al., 1993; Olsson and Folke, 2001).

2) feeding ecological knowledge into adaptive management practices; successful management is characterized by continuous testing, monitoring, and adaptive responses acknowledging the inherent uncertainty in complex systems. …

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