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Trust, confidence, and equity affect the legitimacy of natural resource governance

Rachel A Turner, Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter
Jane Addison, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Land and Water
Adrian Arias, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University
Brock J Bergseth, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University
Nadine A Marshall, Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), Land and Water; College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University
Tiffany H Morrison, Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, James Cook University
Renae C Tobin, College of Science and Engineering, James Cook University; Centre for Sustainable Tropical Fisheries and Aquaculture, James Cook University

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-08542-210318

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Abstract

Social-ecological systems are often highly complex, making effective governance a considerable challenge. In large, heterogeneous systems, hierarchical institutional regimes may be efficient, but effective management outcomes are dependent on stakeholder support. This support is shaped by perceptions of legitimacy, which risks being undermined where resource users are not engaged in decision-making. Although legitimacy is demonstrably critical for effective governance, less is known about the factors contributing to stakeholders’ perceptions of legitimacy or how these perceptions are socially differentiated. We quantitatively assessed stakeholder perceptions of legitimacy (indicated by support for rules) and their contributory factors among 307 commercial fishers and tourism operators in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Legitimacy was most strongly associated with trust in information from governing bodies, followed by confidence in institutional performance and the equity of management outcomes. Legitimacy differed both within and among resource user groups, which emphasizes the heterogeneous nature of commonly defined stakeholder groups. Overall, tourism operators perceived higher legitimacy than did commercial fishers, which was associated with higher trust in information from management agencies. For fishers, higher levels of trust were associated with: (1) engagement in fisheries that had high subsector cohesion and positive previous experiences of interactions with governing bodies; (2) location in areas with greater proximity to sources of knowledge, resources, and decision-making; and (3) engagement in a Reef Guardian program. These findings highlight the necessity of strategies and processes to build trust among all user groups in large social-ecological systems such as the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park. Furthermore, the social differentiation of perceptions that were observed within user groups underscores the importance of targeted strategies to engage groups that may not be heard through traditional governance channels.

Key words

fisheries; Great Barrier Reef; justice; marine conservation; tourism; trust

Copyright © 2016 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.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087