The relationship between adaptive management of social-ecological systems and law: a systematic review
Miguel F. Frohlich, Sustainability Research Centre, University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia
Chris Jacobson, Sustainability Research Centre, University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia
Pedro Fidelman, Sustainability Research Centre, University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia; Centre for Policy Futures, University of Queensland, Australia
Timothy F. Smith, Sustainability Research Centre, University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia; Environmental Sustainability Research Centre, Brock University, Canada; SWEDESD, Uppsala University, Sweden
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Adaptive management has been considered a valuable approach for managing social-ecological systems involving high levels of complexity and uncertainty. However, many obstacles still hamper its implementation. Law is often seen as a barrier for moving adaptive management beyond theory, although there has been no synthesis on the challenges of legal constraints or how to overcome them. We contribute to filling this knowledge gap by providing a systematic review of the peer-reviewed literature on the relationship between adaptive management and law in relation to social-ecological systems. We analyze how the scholarship defines the concept of adaptive management, identifies the legal barriers to adaptive management, and the legal strategies suggested for enabling this approach. Research efforts in this domain are still highly geographically concentrated in the United States of America, unveiling gaps concerning the analysis of other legal jurisdictions. Overall, our results show that more flexible legal frameworks can allow for adaptive management without undermining the role of law in providing stability to social interactions. Achieving this balance will likely require the reform of existing laws, regulations, and other legal instruments. Legal reforms can facilitate the emergence of adaptive governance, with the potential to support not only adaptive management implementation but also to make law itself more adaptive.
adaptive governance; adaptive management; environmental management; law; legal institutions; legislation; systematic review
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