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From Scaling to Governance of the Land System: Bridging Ecological and Economic Perspectives

Tom Veldkamp, Faculty of Geo-Information Science and Earth Observation. University of Twente
Nico Polman, LEI part of Wageningen UR (Agricultural Economics Research Institute)
Stijn Reinhard, LEI part of Wageningen UR (Agricultural Economics Research Institute)
Maja Slingerland, Wageningen University, Plant Production Systems Group


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One of the main unresolved problems in policy making is the step from scale issues to effective governance. What is appropriate for a lower level, such as a region or location, might be considered undesirable at a global scale. Linking scaling to governance is an important issue for the improvement of current environmental management and policies. Whereas social–ecological science tends to focus on adaptive behavior and aspects of spatial ecological data, new institutional economics focuses more on levels in institutional scales and temporal dimensions. Consequently, both disciplines perceive different scaling challenges while aiming at a similar improvement of effective governance. We propose that future research needs to focus on four themes: (1) How to combine spatial properties such as extent and grain with the economic units of market and agent; (2) How to combine the different governance instruments proposed by both perspectives; (3) How to communicate the different scaling perspectives (hierarchy vs. no hierarchy) and meanings to policy makers and other stakeholders; and (4) How to deal with the non-equilibrium conditions in the real world and the disciplinary perspectives. Here, we hypothesize that a combined system perspective of both disciplines will improve our understanding of the missing link between scaling and governance.

Key words

combined system perspective; governance; new institutional economics; scaling; social–ecological sciences;
Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087