The Evolution of Self-Organizing Communication Networks in High-Risk Social-Ecological Systems

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"Recently published research shows that members of regional communication networks form links based on how risky their exchanges with others may be: low-risk situations favor the creation of bridging structures that solve coordination problems, whereas high-risk situations lead to the establishment of bonding structures that make detection and punishment of defection more likely. This basic expectation has been tested in low-risk regional arenas, where indeed more bridging structures formed in time (Berardo and Scholz 2010). However, no empirical evidence on the formation of networks has been produced yet in high-risk social-ecological systems (HRSES). In this article, I study the network of communication among stakeholders in a small river basin in Argentina that has been subject to high levels of environmental stress over the last decades and empirically test whether more bonding structures tend to form in this high-risk SE system. Findings show that actors in the network have a tendency to create more triadic bonding structures, as expected. However, complementary results offer a more nuanced picture of how networks look like in highly-risky regional settings and caution against an overly optimistic view linking bonding in networks to the solution of collective action problems of a regional scale."
cooperation, risk, networks