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Facilitating Transitional Processes in Rigid Institutional Regimes for Water Management and Wetland Conservation: Experience from the Guadalquivir Estuary

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Type: Journal Article
Author: Méndez, Pablo F.; Isendahl, Nicola; Amezaga, Jaime M.; Santamaría, Luis
Journal: Ecology and Society
Volume: 17
Date: 2012
URI: https://hdl.handle.net/10535/8302
Sector: Water Resource & Irrigation
Region: Europe
Subject(s): action research
adaptive systems
path dependence
institutional analysis
Abstract: "Traditional policies for water resources management and wetland conservation are often based on command-and-control approaches. The latter tend to drive the human–wetland–water system into pathological states, characterized by more vulnerable ecosystems and rigid institutions for governance. The overcoming of these states may rest in the development of flexible and adaptive institutional regimes that rely on adaptive governance and management. Because past factors might constrain the implementation of more flexible adaptive approaches to management, it is important to understand the historical mechanisms underlying the genesis of institutional rigidity. We first present the results of a historical analysis of Doñana, which can be characterized as a pathological water socio-ecosystem governed through rigid institutional regimes for water resources management and wetland conservation. In a second step, we analyze the advances achieved during a recent, large-scale restoration program for the Doñana wetlands, which adhered explicitly to the tenets of adaptive management. Our analysis indicated that the historical persistence of command-and-control approaches has been a path-dependent process that led to the emergence of a rigid institutional regime and caused it to enter a rigidity trap. However, the achievements of the restoration program suggest that a more flexible and adaptive regime could be developed through the introduction of adaptive management at the operational levels, using specifically tailored action research programs. To conclude, we speculate that the research strategy outlined could be extended to comply with, or complement, the requirements of the EU's Water Framework Directive in other European water socio-ecosystems."

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