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Enhancing the Fit through Adaptive Comanagement: Creating and Maintaining Bridging Functions for Matching Scales in the Kristianstads Vattenrike Biosphere Reserve Sweden

Per Olsson, Carl Folke, Victor Galaz, Thomas Hahn and Lisen Schultz, 2007 Ecology and Society 12(1): 28


In this article, we focus on adaptive governance of social–ecological systems (SES) and, more specifically, on social factors that can enhance the fit between governance systems and ecosystems. The challenge lies in matching multilevel governance system, often characterized by fragmented organizational and institutional structures and compartmentalized and sectorized decision-making processes, with ecosystems characterized by complex interactions in time and space. The ability to create the right links, at the right time, around the right issues in multilevel governance systems is crucial for fostering responses that build social–ecological resilience and maintain the capacity of complex and dynamic ecosystems to generate services for human well-being. This is especially true in the face of uncertainty and during periods of abrupt change and reorganization. We draw on our earlier work in the Kristianstads Vattenrike Biosphere Reserve (KVBR), in southern Sweden, to provide new insights on factors that can improve such linking. We focus especially on the bridging function in SES and the factors that constrain bridging in multilevel governance systems, and strategies used to overcome these. We present two features that seem critical for linking organizations dynamically across multiple levels: 1) the role of bridging organizations and 2) the importance of leadership. Bridging organizations and the bridging function can be vulnerable to disturbance, but there are sources of resilience for securing these key structures and functions in SES. These include social mechanisms for combining multiple sources of knowledge, building moral and political support in social networks, and having legal and financial support as part of the adaptive governance structure.

Keywords: adaptive co-management, adaptive governance, cross-level links, cross-scale interactions, ecosystem management, resilience, social–ecological systems, social networks

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