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Growth, Collapse, and Reorganization of the Annapurna Conservation Area, Nepal: an Analysis of Institutional Resilience

Nabin Baral, Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, Virginia Tech
Marc J Stern, Department of Forest Resources and Environmental Conservation, Virginia Tech
Joel T Heinen, Department of Earth and Environment, Florida International University

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Abstract

Community-based conservation institutions can be conceptualized as complex adaptive systems that pass through a cycle of growth, maturation, collapse, and reorganization. We test the applicability of this four-phase adaptive cycle in the institutional context of the Annapurna Conservation Area (ACA), Nepal. We use the adaptive cycle to assess changes in structures and processes and to explore the past, present, and possible future trends in ACA. We focus on the crisis brought about by the Maoist insurgency and changes that took place in ACA during and after this period. Our analysis suggests that the conservation institution has passed through one and a half forms of the adaptive cycle in five major historical periods in the Annapurna region since 1960. It also appears to have been resilient to the insurgency because the system maintained its identity throughout, avoided alternative undesirable states, and entered into the reorganization phase following collapse. All forms of capital and institutional performance decreased to some extent during collapse, but flexible nested governance structures, including the devolution of responsibility to local entities, the maintenance of capital stocks, the retention of institutional memory, and the perceptions of institutional legitimacy among constituencies, facilitated reorganization. The institutional system is reorganizing along the original regime, but it has also developed an alternative pathway that will transform it in the near term. We evaluate the usefulness, strengths, and weaknesses of the adaptive cycle analogy in this application.

Key words

Annapurna; adaptive cycle; community-based conservation; protected areas management; resilience; social-ecological system; sustainability science
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087