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Unravelling Sustainability: The complex dynamics of emergent environmental governance and management systems at multiple scales
Stockholm University, Faculty of Science, Department of Physical Geography. (Environment, Resource Dynamics and Management)ORCID iD: 0000-0002-2325-1609
2019 (English)Doctoral thesis, comprehensive summary (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

This thesis adopts a complex systems approach to investigate the dynamic emergence of sustainable environmental governance and management systems in multiple contexts in Europe. Accelerating rates of environmental degradation across the world have called the legitimacy of previous environmental governance and management arrangements into question. Top-down, linear optimisation approaches have failed to account for the inherent complexity of social-ecological systems, upon which human society is entirely reliant for long-term survival. Systemic interdependence between ecological and human systems underscores the “wicked” nature of environmental problems, which are characterised by multi-dimensional values and competing interests among stakeholders and actors at multiple levels and across divergent spatial and temporal scales. Sustainability objectives therefore mandate the evolution of new environmental governance and management systems that are capable of engaging with complexity and dynamism. Employing a methodology based on comprehensive literature assessment, case studies and qualitative systems modelling methods, this thesis clearly identifies the structurally complex systems within which studied environmental governance and management arrangements took place. However, the degree to which these systems indicated the emergence of integrated and/or adaptive approaches, proposed by recent sustainability theories, was more uneven across governance levels and contexts. Key constraints related to the continued dominance of top-down institutional and regulatory frameworks, the availability of adequate inputs (primarily financial) for new approaches and initiatives, socio-cultural influences, and to the complexity and concomitant uncertainty of social-ecological system dynamics. Identified opportunities from across cases related to supra-national institutions, a shift of value preferences amongst stakeholders, and the perverse opportunities arising from chronic environmental degradation and/or acute social/ecological crises. Strategies enabling emergent governance and management approaches included strengthening the legitimacy of new actors, actively managing and integrating the perceptions of stakeholders, learning by doing and sharing, and recruiting and enabling active, hybridised leadership. Importantly, key constraints and opportunities remain largely out of reach for actors and stakeholders at lower levels. Feedback mechanisms by which bottom-up initiatives can influence higher level institutional development are lacking, poorly understood, or are dominated by long delays. These dynamics impede sustainability transitions.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Stockholm: Department of Physical Geography, Stockholm University , 2019. , p. 98
Series
Dissertations in Physical Geography, ISSN 2003-2358 ; 1
Keywords [en]
Integrated adaptive environmental governance and management, Social-ecological system dynamics, Complex systems, Sustainability transitions, Sustainability strategies, Multi-level governance, Causal loop diagrams, Green Infrastructure, Landscape restoration, Habitat restoration, Biodiversity conservation, Comprehensive planning, Stakeholder participation, System thinking, Water Framework Directive, Sustainable water governance, Collaborative learning, Communities of practice, Knowledge management
National Category
Physical Geography Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Physical Geography
Identifiers
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-167024ISBN: 978-91-7797-666-0 (print)ISBN: 978-91-7797-667-7 (electronic)OAI: oai:DiVA.org:su-167024DiVA, id: diva2:1300691
Public defence
2019-05-29, William-Olssonsalen, Geovetenskapens hus, Svante Arrhenius väg 14, Stockholm, 13:00 (English)
Opponent
Supervisors
Funder
Swedish Research Council Formas, 2011-1737
Note

At the time of the doctoral defense, the following paper was unpublished and had a status as follows: Paper 4: Manuscript.

Available from: 2019-05-06 Created: 2019-03-29 Last updated: 2019-05-23Bibliographically approved
List of papers
1. Direct and indirect drivers of change in biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Direct and indirect drivers of change in biodiversity and nature’s contributions to people
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2018 (English)In: The IPBES regional assessment report on biodiversity and ecosystem services for Europe and Central Asia / [ed] M. Rounsevell, M. Fischer, A. Torre-Marin Rando, A. Mader, Bonn, Germany: Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services , 2018, p. 385-568Chapter in book (Refereed)
Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Bonn, Germany: Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, 2018
National Category
Biological Sciences Environmental Sciences Physical Geography
Research subject
Physical Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-167035 (URN)978-3-947851-03-4 (ISBN)
Available from: 2019-03-13 Created: 2019-03-13 Last updated: 2019-04-12Bibliographically approved
2. Is spatial planning a collaborative learning process? A case study from a rural-urban gradient in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Is spatial planning a collaborative learning process? A case study from a rural-urban gradient in Sweden
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2015 (English)In: Land use policy, ISSN 0264-8377, E-ISSN 1873-5754, Vol. 48, p. 270-285Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

International and national policies stress the importance of spatial planning for the long-term sustainability of regions. This paper identifies the extent to which the spatial planning in a Swedish region can be characterised as a collaborative learning process. By combining qualitative interviews and systems thinking methods we analysed the main attributes of public-led spatial (i.e. comprehensive) planning in nine municipalities representing a steep urban-rural gradient in the Bergslagen region of Central Sweden. We show that the attributes of strategic spatial planning needed for collaborative learning were absent or undeveloped. All studied municipalities experienced challenges in coordinating complex issues regarding long-term planning to steer territorial development and help to solve conflicts among competing interests. Stakeholder participation was identified as a basic condition for social learning in planning. Together with stakeholders we identified the causal structure behind stakeholder participation in municipal planning processes, including main drivers and feedback loops. We conclude that there is a need for arenas allowing and promoting stakeholder activity, participation and inclusion that combines both bottom-up and top-down approaches, and where evidence-based collaborative learning can occur.

Keywords
Comprehensive planning, System thinking, Stakeholder participation, Causal loop diagram
National Category
Social and Economic Geography
Research subject
Physical Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-122917 (URN)10.1016/j.landusepol.2015.05.001 (DOI)000362152800023 ()
Available from: 2015-11-16 Created: 2015-11-11 Last updated: 2019-04-12Bibliographically approved
3. Governance and management dynamics of landscape restoration at multiple scales: Learning from successful environmental managers in Sweden
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Governance and management dynamics of landscape restoration at multiple scales: Learning from successful environmental managers in Sweden
2017 (English)In: Journal of Environmental Management, ISSN 0301-4797, E-ISSN 1095-8630, Vol. 197, p. 24-40Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Due to a long history of intensive land and water use, habitat networks for biodiversity conservation are generally degraded in Sweden. Landscape restoration (LR) is an important strategy for achieving representative and functional green infrastructures. However, outcomes of LR efforts are poorly studied, particularly the dynamics of LR governance and management. We apply systems thinking methods to a series of LR case studies to analyse the causal structures underlying LR governance and management in Sweden. We show that these structures appear to comprise of an interlinked system of at least three sets of drivers and four core processes. This system exhibits many characteristics of a transformative change towards an integrated, adaptive approach to governance and management. Key challenges for Swedish LR projects relate to institutional and regulatory flexibility, the timely availability of sufficient funds, and the management of learning and knowledge production processes. In response, successful project leaders develop several key strategies to manage complexity and risk, and enhance perceptions of the attractiveness of LR projects.

Keywords
Landscape restoration, Environmental system dynamics, Integrated adaptive governance & management, Causal loop modelling, Green infrastructure
National Category
Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Physical Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-140797 (URN)10.1016/j.jenvman.2017.03.019 (DOI)000401880100003 ()
Available from: 2017-03-16 Created: 2017-03-16 Last updated: 2019-04-12Bibliographically approved
4. Bogs, Birds and Berries in Belarus: the multi-scale dynamics of wetlands sustainability initiatives in a top-down context
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Bogs, Birds and Berries in Belarus: the multi-scale dynamics of wetlands sustainability initiatives in a top-down context
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(English)Manuscript (preprint) (Other academic)
Abstract [en]

Wetlands are complex social-ecological systems, which provide both important habitat for species, and multiple ecosystem services for people. This diversity of perspectives places new demands on multi-level and multi-sector participation in governance and management arrangements for conservation, sustainable use and restoration. How can sustainable wetlands be achieved and managed in strong top-down governance contexts, such as in former Soviet republics? Using three case studies relating to wetland restoration (bogs), conservation (birds) and wild food production (berries) in Belarus, this study employs a complex systems approach to analyse core governance and management processes underpinning wetlands sustainability initiatives in Belarus. We identified five processes, viz. adequacy of plans and planning processes, garnering stakeholder support, the adequacy of several types of key inputs, management of activity rates, and the integration of adaptive learning and knowledge cycles. Although path dependent societal dynamics of the (post-)Soviet era continue to influence wetland systems, windows of opportunity precipitated the emergence of active participation among non-governmental actors. Major opportunities were identification of confluences of interest amongst stakeholders, as well as continued mutual integration of Belarus with the international community. Key constraints concerned institutional hierarchies, onerous regulations, “negativism”, and financing difficulties. Key strategies relating to perception management, risk mitigation, and learning are identified for reinforcing positive feedback loops relating to core processes.

Keywords
Habitat restoration, Biodiversity conservation, Entrepreneurial innovation, Environmental governance and management, Sustainability strategies, Complex systems, Social-ecological system dynamics
National Category
Environmental Sciences Physical Geography
Research subject
Physical Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-167027 (URN)
Funder
Swedish Research Council Formas, 2011-1737Swedish Research Council Formas, 2017:1342Swedish Institute, 10976/2013
Available from: 2019-03-13 Created: 2019-03-13 Last updated: 2019-04-12Bibliographically approved
5. Impacts of the water framework directive on learning and knowledge practices in a Swedish catchment
Open this publication in new window or tab >>Impacts of the water framework directive on learning and knowledge practices in a Swedish catchment
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2018 (English)In: Journal of Environmental Management, ISSN 0301-4797, E-ISSN 1095-8630, Vol. 223, p. 731-742Article in journal (Refereed) Published
Abstract [en]

Catchments are complex social-ecological systems involving multiple, and often competing, interests. Water governance and management regimes are increasingly embracing pluralistic, participatory, and holistic norms as a means to engage with issues of complexity, uncertainty, and value-conflicts. Integrated, participatory approaches are theoretically linked to improved learning amongst stakeholders across sectors and decision-making that is grounded in shared knowledge, experiences and scientific evidence. However, few studies have empirically examined the impacts of an integrated approach to learning and knowledge practices related to water resources. Here, a Swedish sub-catchment that has adopted such an approach in association with implementation of the European Water Framework Directive (WFD) is examined. Interview-based analyses show that WFD implementation has both helped and hindered learning and knowledge practices surrounding both water planning and spatial planning. Whilst communities of practice have developed in the study area, a number of important challenges remain. These include the rigid goal-orientation of the WFD, the fragmentation of knowledge caused by an over-reliance on external consultants, as well as a lack of resources to synthesise information from multiple sources. Present results raise questions regarding the efficacy of the WFD to sufficiently enable the development of learning and knowledge practices capable of handling the complexity, uncertainties and value-conflicts facing catchments in Sweden and elsewhere.

Keywords
Water framework directive, Sustainable water governance, Collaborative learning, Knowledge management, Communities of practice
National Category
Earth and Related Environmental Sciences
Research subject
Physical Geography
Identifiers
urn:nbn:se:su:diva-160192 (URN)10.1016/j.jenvman.2018.06.054 (DOI)000442057500073 ()29986320 (PubMedID)
Available from: 2018-09-27 Created: 2018-09-27 Last updated: 2019-04-12Bibliographically approved

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