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Millennium Ecosystem Assessment

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Thomas Hahn
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Thomas Hahn
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The pre-analytic vision of this chapter is that human societies and globally interconnected economies are parts of the dynamics of the biosphere, embedded in its processes and ultimately dependent on the capacity of the environment to sustain societal development with essential ecosystem services and support (Odum, 1989; Millennium Ecosystem Assessment, 2005). Throughout history humans have shaped nature and nature has shaped the development of human society (Turner et al., 1990; Redman, 1999). The human dimension has expanded and intensified and become globally interconnected, through technology, capital markets and systems of governance with decisions in one place influencing people and ecosystems elsewhere (Holling, 1994). Reduced temporal variability of renewable resource flows in some parts of the world has resulted in increased spatial dependence on other areas on Earth, reflected in, for example, widespread ecosystem support to urban areas (Folke et al., 1997). Humanity has become a major force in structuring ecosystem dynamics from local scales to the biosphere as a whole (Steffen et al., 2004).
GOVERNANCE OF ECOSYSTEMS or social-ecological systems has lately received increasing attention (Dietz, Ostrom, and Stern ; Eckerberg and Joas ; Folke et al. ; Ostrom). If management is about strategies for handling natural resources, governance addresses the broader social contexts of creating the conditions for social coordination that enable ecosystem based management (Stoker ; Lee). Boyle, Kay, and Pond () have suggested a triad of activities where governance is the process of resolving trade-offs and providing a vision and direction for sustainability, management is the operationalization of this vision, and monitoring provides feedback and synthesizes the observations to a narrative of how the situation has emerged and might unfold in the future. Social networks have been shown to play a crucial role in each of these three activities. For instance, Scheffer, Westley, and Brock () have suggested that a clear and convincing vision, comprehensive stories, and meaning as well as good social links and trust with fellow stakeholders may mobilize several interest groups at several organizational levels and start a self-organizing process of learning and social capital generation for management of complex adaptive ecosystem. In this chapter we illuminate, using one case study from southern Swe-den, the crucial role of multilevel social networks for generating visions and ecological knowledge and connecting this to management and governance of a social-ecological system. The social networks of Kristianstads Vattenrike appear to have succeeded in transforming a social-ecological system toward a more sustainable trajectory and building resilience in this new trajectory.
Declining ecosystem trends have been halted, and in some cases reversed, by innovative local responses. The ‘‘threats’’ observed at an aggregated, global level may be overestimated or underestimated from a sub-global perspective. Assessments at an aggregated level often fail to take into account the adaptive capacity of sub-global actors. Through collaboration in social networks, actors can develop new institutions and reorganize to mitigate declining conditions. On the other hand, sub-global actors tend to neglect drivers that are beyond the reach of their immediate influence when they craft responses. Hence, it is crucial for decision-makers to develop institutions at the global, regional, and national levels that strengthen the adaptive capacity of actors at the sub-national and local levels, so that context-specific responses that address the full range of relevant drivers may be developed. This means neither centralization nor decentralization, but instead institutions at multiple levels that enhance the adaptive capacity and effectiveness of sub-national and local responses.