BORIS Theses

BORIS Theses
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Using networks to explore social-ecological systems. From network patterns to governance outcomes in social-ecological systems

Huber, Martin Nicola (2023). Using networks to explore social-ecological systems. From network patterns to governance outcomes in social-ecological systems. (Thesis). Universität Bern, Bern

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The governance of scarce resources in complex social-ecological systems (SESs) is challenging, in large part because fully grasping relevant interdependencies in SESs requires high conceptual efforts, as the governance of SES is highly complex. Network approaches offer great features for conceptualizing complex interdependencies of SESs based on nodes and ties. Novel network approaches conceptualize SESs based on networks with nodes and ties representing relevant social and ecological entities and dependencies between them. Such network conceptualization can help allocate and distribute resources such as knowledge and financial or natural resources efficiently. Allocation and distribution are important, as the need and availability of resources are often decoupled from each other. However, the distribution of resources is no trivial task as interdependencies within SESs, such as interaction patterns between actors from different governance sectors or causal links between environmental issues, and all the ensuing dynamics, are highly complex. Such complex governance systems can be described by interdependent social and ecological governance issues accounted for by interacting actors, each with their own interests and goals, reflecting the underlying environmental challenge this thesis addresses. To contribute to the understanding of complex social-ecological interdependencies of SESs, this PhD thesis analyzes multi-level networks for the governance of SESs in two steps, each based on two papers. First, the dependency between governance settings and the emergence of network patterns is analyzed. In Paper 1, the focus is on the impact of cross-sectoral structures on actor networks. Cross-sectoral structures are an important driver for actor interaction, as actors tend to prefer interaction with actors from the same sector (e.g., energy and farming). Understanding drivers shaping interaction patterns is important, as actor interaction is important for successful governance of SES. For Paper 2, the focus of the analysis is on the impact of different conditions of complexity on interaction patterns, for example, the impact of the size of an SES on the observed interaction patterns. In order to interpret the emergent network patterns, normative assumptions were made common in the analysis of governance networks, such as that actor interaction or social-ecological fit – the alignment of social and ecological governance issues – are beneficial for environmental governance. Second, the thesis analyzes how network patterns, such as social-ecological fit or bridging and bonding ties, can be linked to governance outcomes. Paper 3 looks specifically at bridging and bonding structures as a vehicle for power for actors to analyze how network patterns can be linked to governance outcomes. Paper 4 analyzes network motifs of social-ecological fit and how they are linked to governance outcomes. Together the four papers of this thesis provide information on the environmental governance of SESs building on network conceptualizations. The results show that cross-sectoral governance structures [Paper 1] and exogenous governance complexity [Paper 2] can influence interaction patterns and motifs of social-ecological fit in networks. Further, the results show that network structures, such as bonding ties of actors [Paper 3] or motifs of social-ecological fit [Paper 4], indeed can be linked to governance outcomes such as local biodiversity or economic profitability. To analyze networks of SESs and how patterns in these network conceptualizations can be linked to governance outcomes, this thesis looks at water-based ecosystems. Water-based ecosystems such as wetlands are among the ecosystems with the highest biodiversity both in Switzerland and worldwide. A loss of wetlands can have dramatic consequences not only for the local ecosystem but also for many other dependent ecosystems. In Switzerland, there exists special legislation for the protection of water-based ecosystems– the Water Protection Act of 1991. However, despite it, many water bodies in Switzerland are in poor condition. To change this, the recent revision of the Water Protection Act requires the restoration of one-quarter of the water bodies and provides 40 Mio CHF/year of funding to achieve this. Based on the research results linking interaction patterns in networks and governance outcomes, this thesis yields guidance for allocating and distributing public funding resources more meaningfully and efficiently and using natural resources more consciously. Further, the research results on the dependency between governance settings on the emergence of network patterns promote the understanding of social and ecological system interdependencies using theories and methods of multi-level networks.

Item Type: Thesis
Dissertation Type: Cumulative
Date of Defense: 30 March 2023
Subjects: 300 Social sciences, sociology & anthropology > 320 Political science
Institute / Center: 03 Faculty of Business, Economics and Social Sciences > Social Sciences > Institute of Political Science
Depositing User: Hammer Igor
Date Deposited: 05 Jun 2024 09:22
Last Modified: 06 Jun 2024 02:09

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