The problem of "fit", when an ecological process transcends the jurisdictional borders of different actors, is in research terms not a new one.
In fact, it has been going on for decades. However, despite this extensive interest, there is still a shortage of approaches to quantify the level of social and ecological fit and to identify any mismatches.
In a new article published in Ecology & Society, centre researchers Arvid Bergsten, Diego Galafassi and Örjan Bodin have looked at ways to address this.
They present a research approach that maps patterns of collaborations between actors who manage different parts of a landscape, and then relates these patterns to fragmented, yet connected ecological areas.
Specifically, they analysed the fit in a wetland management network comprising all 26 municipalities of Stockholm County in Sweden. First they estimated the level of ecological connectivity between 641 wetlands in neighbouring municipalities, and then compared this to current inter-municipal collaboration.
A link means that collaboration is absent. Link color represents the level of mismatch interpreted as the urgency of establishing a new collaboration to protect the corresponding level of wetland connectivity.
A social-ecological mismatch
What they found was that collaboration as well as level of fit was generally weak. Of all collaborations found in the survey, 12 % coincided with high ecological connectivity while 53 % were not associated with ecological connectivity at all.
"Since so much of the present wetland-related collaborations are not matched with wetland connectivity, it seems that the social and ecological processes in our analysis are not matched in an efficient way"
Arvid Bergsten, lead author
A part of the explanation is because land use planning in Sweden is generally a responsibility of municipal governments. Regional actors have only indicative or advisory powers. However, strong wetland connectivity marks the need for a closer dialogue, not only bilaterally between municipalities, but also through better multilevel governance.
"Such approach would allow mismatches to be identified and resolved easier by including both local actors who manage individual resources and regional actors who monitor larger ecological patterns," co-author Diego Galafassi explains.
Hook them up!
To resolve mismatches there is a need to identify where they could occur. This requires in-depth investigations of the social and ecological processes that are taking place across management boundaries.
Network models of spatial ecological and social connectivity can easily incorporate more information about the involved actors and connecting processes. For example, it can include the intensity of a relation or even help identify connections between actors who are not neighbors but still have matching interests.
"Our study demonstrates that it is possible to provide results of practical value to managers and policy-makers about how the spatial institutional fit can be understood and improved," co-author Örjan Bodin says.
Bergsten, A., D. Galafassi, and Ö. Bodin. 2014. The problem of spatial fit in social-ecological systems: detecting mismatches between ecological connectivity and land management in an urban region. Ecology and Society19(4): 6.
Arvid Bergsten's doctoral research applies both social and ecological theory on the ecology and management of landscapes. Arvid uses network analyses to link landscape changes to the spatial conditions of biodiversity.
Örjan Bodin's research describes and models social, ecological and coupled social and ecological systems as complex and intricate webs of interactions between, and among, different ecological and/or social components.
Diego Galafassi's research is centered in a network perspective of dynamic social-ecological systems. In his PhD he is exploring how transformations can be studied from a social-ecological network perspective, using statistical network analysis, lab experiments, interviews and simulation modeling.
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