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Adaptive Comanagement and Its Relationship to Environmental Governance

Ryan Plummer, Brock University, Canada; Stockholm Resilience Centre, Sweden
Derek R Armitage, University of Waterloo, Canada
Rob C de Loë, University of Waterloo, Canada


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We provide a systematic review of the adaptive comanagement (ACM) literature to (i) investigate how the concept of governance is considered and (ii) examine what insights ACM offers with reference to six key concerns in environmental governance literature: accountability and legitimacy; actors and roles; fit, interplay, and scale; adaptiveness, flexibility, and learning; evaluation and monitoring; and, knowledge. Findings from the systematic review uncover a complicated relationship with evidence of conceptual closeness as well as relational ambiguities. The findings also reveal several specific contributions from the ACM literature to each of the six key environmental governance concerns, including applied strategies for sharing power and responsibility and value of systems approaches in understanding problems of fit. More broadly, the research suggests a dissolving or fuzzy boundary between ACM and governance, with implications for understanding emerging approaches to navigate social-ecological system change. Future research opportunities may be found at the confluence of ACM and environmental governance scholarship, such as identifying ways to build adaptive capacity and encouraging the development of more flexible governance arrangements.

Key words

adaptive comanagement; adaptive governance; environmental governance; integrated management; multilevel governance; resilience; systematic review
Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087