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Legitimacy, Adaptation, and Resilience in Ecosystem Management

Barbara A Cosens, University of Idaho College of Law


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Ecologists have made great strides in developing criteria for describing the resilience of an ecological system. In addition, expansion of that effort to social-ecological systems has begun the process of identifying changes to the social system necessary to foster resilience in an ecological system such as the use of adaptive management and integrated ecosystem management. However, these changes to governance needed to foster ecosystem resilience will not be adopted by democratic societies without careful attention to their effect on the social system itself. Delegation of increased flexibility for adaptive management to resource management agencies must include careful attention to assuring that increased flexibility is exercised in a manner that is legitimate and responsive to the social system. Similarly, democratic systems proceed in incremental steps and are not likely to adopt wholesale changes to achieve integrated ecosystem management. This paper uses the concept of legitimacy in governance as a necessary component of any change to achieve greater social-ecological resilience and will turn to network theory as a means to facilitate legitimacy across multiple jurisdictions.

Key words

adaptive governance; ecosystem management; law; legitimacy; networks; policy; resilience

Copyright © 2013 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes 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