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Connecting Social Networks with Ecosystem Services for Watershed Governance: a Social-Ecological Network Perspective Highlights the Critical Role of Bridging Organizations

Kaitlyn J Rathwell, University of Waterloo, Waterloo, Canada; Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden
Garry D Peterson, Stockholm Resilience Centre, Stockholm University, Sweden

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-04810-170224

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Abstract

In many densely settled agricultural watersheds, water quality is a point of conflict between amenity and agricultural activities because of the varied demands and impacts on shared water resources. Successful governance of these watersheds requires coordination among different activities. Recent research has highlighted the role that social networks between management entities can play to facilitate cross-scale interaction in watershed governance. For example, bridging organizations can be positioned in social networks to bridge local initiatives done by single municipalities across whole watersheds. To better understand the role of social networks in social-ecological system dynamics, we combine a social network analysis of the water quality management networks held by local governments with a social-ecological analysis of variation in water management and ecosystem services across the Montérégie, an agricultural landscape near Montréal, Québec, Canada. We analyze municipal water management networks by using one-mode networks to represent direct collaboration between municipalities, and two-mode networks to capture how bridging organizations indirectly connect municipalities. We find that municipalities do not collaborate directly with one another but instead are connected via bridging organizations that span the water quality management network. We also discovered that more connected municipalities engaged in more water management activities. However, bridging organizations preferentially connected with municipalities that used more tourism related ecosystem services rather than those that used more agricultural ecosystem services. Many agricultural municipalities were relatively isolated, despite being the main producers of water quality problems. In combination, these findings suggest that further strengthening the water management network in the Montérégie will contribute to improving water quality in the region. However, such strengthening requires developing a network that better connects both agricultural and tourism oriented municipalities. Furthermore, these findings show that consideration of the social-ecological context of social networks, can help explain the structure of networks and reveal social-ecological clusters and disconnects in a network.

Key words

agricultural watershed, agriculture, bridging organization, ecosystem services, Montérégie, Richelieu River Québec, social-ecological feedback, social-ecological system, social network analysis, social networks, tourism, two-mode network, water quality, watershed, watershed management, Yamaska River Québec
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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087