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Closing integrative gaps in complex environmental governance systems

Harrison S Fried, School of Environment and Natural Resources, The Ohio State University
Matthew Hamilton, School of Environment and Natural Resources, The Ohio State University; Sustainability Institute, The Ohio State University
Ramiro Berardo, School of Environment and Natural Resources, The Ohio State University

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-12996-270115

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Abstract

Modern environmental problems pose unique management challenges as they are usually interdependent in myriad, complex ways. Climate change is the ultimate example of a problem that forces environmental managers to confront highly interdependent challenges, such as invasive species, rising temperatures, and habitat loss. Interdependencies abound: for example, the issue of warming winter temperatures exacerbates the issue of invasive species, and a high prevalence of invasive species contributes to the issue of habitat loss. Ideally, stakeholders should account for these issue interdependencies by managing connected issues. Such activities close "integrative gaps," which refer to instances in which interdependent issues are managed independently. By closing integrative gaps, actors align management activities with underlying ecological processes. We focus on climate change adaptation governance in Ohio, USA, as a model study system and evaluate conditions that enable integrative gap closure through analysis of a network of adaptation actors and issues. Our findings show that actors are more likely to close integrative gaps between issue pairs that are highly biophysically interdependent, receive higher collective levels of public attention, and have garnered higher levels of progress. We also find that regional-scoped, specialized, and non-profit actors are most likely to manage for environmental interdependencies. We discuss how these findings advance theoretical understanding of institutional fitness and resilience in social–ecological systems by revealing how actors navigate highly interdependent environmental governance settings.

Key words

climate change adaptation; environmental governance; ERGM; institutional fitness; integrative gaps; policy issue interdependencies; social-ecological networks

Copyright © 2022 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087