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Spatial Misfit in Participatory River Basin Management: Effects on Social Learning, a Comparative Analysis of German and French Case Studies

Ilke Borowski, University of Osnabrueck
Jean-Pierre Le Bourhis, CURAPP- Université de Picardie - Jules Verne Faculté de Droit et de Science Politique
Claudia Pahl-Wostl, University of Osnabrueck
Bernhard Barraqué, Centre International de Recherche sur L'Environement et le Développement


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With the introduction of river basin management, as prescribed by the European Water Framework Directive (WFD), participatory structures are frequently introduced at the hydrological scale without fully adapting them to the decision-making structure. This results in parallel structures and spatial misfits within the institutional settings of river basin governance systems. By analyzing French and German case studies, we show how social learning (SL) is impeded by such misfits. We also demonstrate that river basin-scale institutions or actors that link parallel structures are essential for promoting river basins as management entities, and for encouraging SL between actors at the river basin scale. In the multi-scale, multi-level settings of river basin governance, it is difficult to fully exclude spatial misfits. Thus, it is important to take our insights into account in the current transition of water management from the administrative to the hydrological scale to get the greatest benefit from SL processes.

Key words

institutions; public participation; river basin management; social learning; spatial misfit; spatial scales; water management; WFD

Copyright © 2008 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.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087