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Knowledge, Learning and the Resilience of Social-Ecological Systems

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Type: Conference Paper
Author: Berkes, Fikret
Conference: The Commons in an Age of Global Transition: Challenges, Risks and Opportunities, the Tenth Biennial Conference of the International Association for the Study of Common Property
Location: Oaxaca, Mexico
Conf. Date: August 9-13
Date: 2004
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/2385
Sector: Theory
Information & Knowledge
Subject(s): IASC
common pool resources--theory
indigenous knowledge
institutional change
Abstract: "There are two broadly conceptualized ways in which conservation knowledge may evolve: the depletion crisis model and the ecological understanding model. Regarding the first one, R.E. Johannes argues that developing conservation thought and practice depends on learning that resources are depletable. Before they could develop conservation practice, points out Johannes, fishers of the Pacific islands first had to learn that their natural resources were limited -- but 'they could only have done so by depleting them.' Thus, such learning typically follows a resource crisis, as also seen in the James Bay caribou case and others. Regarding the second mechanism, there is large amount of evidence that suggests that the development of conservation practice often follows the elaboration of environmental knowledge by a group of people, leading to increasingly more sophisticated understanding of the ecosystem in which they dwell. "The adaptive co-management concept may be useful in suggesting a way in which these two mechanisms may be integrated. Adaptive co-management may be defined as a process by which institutional arrangements and ecological knowledge are tested and revised in a dynamic, ongoing, self-organized process of learning-by-doing. Adaptive comanagement combines the dynamic learning characteristic of adaptive management with the linkage characteristic of cooperative management. Local groups can self- organize, learn and adapt through social networks. This self-organizing process of adaptive co-management, facilitated by knowledge development and learning, has the potential to increase the resilience (shock-absorbing capability) of common property systems. Hence, it can be concluded that conservation and management knowledge develops through a combination of long- term ecological understanding and learning from crises and mistakes. It has survival value, as it increases the resilience of integrated socialecological systems to deal with change."

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