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Cross-Scale Value Trade-Offs in Managing Social-Ecological Systems: The Politics of Scale in Ruaha National Park, Tanzania

Asim Zia, Department of Community Development and Applied Economics, University of Vermont
Paul Hirsch, Department of Environmental Studies SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, Syracuse NY
Alexander Songorwa, Department of Wildlife Management, Sokoine University of Agriculture, Morogoro, Tanzania
David R. Mutekanga, Wildlife Conservation Society, Ruaha National Park, Tanzania
Sheila O'Connor, Global Institute of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Tempe AZ
Thomas McShane, Global Institute of Sustainability, Arizona State University, Tempe AZ
Peter Brosius, Center for Integrative Conservation Research, University of Georgia, Athens GA
Bryan Norton, School of Public Policy, Georgia Institute of Technology, Atlanta GA


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Management of social-ecological systems takes place amidst complex governance processes and cross-scale institutional arrangements that are mediated through politics of scale. Each management scenario generates distinct cross-scale trade-offs in the distribution of pluralistic values. This study explores the hypothesis that conservation-oriented management scenarios generate higher value for international and national scale social organizations, whereas mixed or more balanced management scenarios generate higher value for local scale social organizations. This hypothesis is explored in the management context of Ruaha National Park (RNP), Tanzania, especially the 2006 expansion of RNP that led to the eviction of many pastoralists and farmers. Five management scenarios for RNP, i.e., national park, game reserve, game control area, multiple use area, and open area, are evaluated in a multicriteria decision analytical framework on six valuation criteria: economic welfare; good governance; socio-cultural values; social equity; ecosystem services; and biodiversity protection; and at three spatial scales: local, national, and international. Based upon this evaluation, we discuss the politics of scale that ensue from the implementation of management alternatives with different mixes of conservation and development goals in social-ecological systems.

Key words

biodiversity conservation; complexity; ecological valuation; economic development; politics of scale; social-ecological systems; trade-off analysis

Copyright © 2011 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes 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