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Evaluating Functional Fit between a Set of Institutions and an Ecosystem

Julia A Ekstrom, Engineering Informatics Group, Stanford University; Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California Santa Barbara
Oran R Young, Bren School of Environmental Science and Management, University of California Santa Barbara


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This paper presents a quantitative analytical method for measuring functional fit between a specific ecosystem and a defined set of institutions. Functional misfits, the focus of this paper, can arise as a result of gaps in governance—a lack of institutional provision for a socioecological system component or link. The method measures such misfit using a similarity metric (simple matching). This provides an indication of the potential degree of system-wide fit between an ecosystem and a relevant set of institutions. A preliminary form of the approach uses the text of ocean and coastal laws and regulations to represent formal institutional arrangements. This basic demonstration helps show the complex interrelationships that have to be taken into account in a systematic evaluation of fit. Beyond the first iteration, work continues on developing the analytical capacity of the framework and, therefore, its utility to assist, for example, in policy transitions, including those to ecosystem-based management.

Key words

ecosystem-based management,; governance; institutions; marine policy; problem of fit; socioecological systems

Copyright © 2009 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087