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Adaptive Comanagement: a Systematic Review and Analysis

Ryan Plummer, Brock University; Stockholm Resilience Centre
Beatrice Crona, Stockholm Resilience Centre
Derek R Armitage, University of Waterloo
Per Olsson, Stockholm Resilience Centre
Maria Tengö, Stockholm Resilience Centre
Olga Yudina, Brock University


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This paper outlines the results of a systematic review of the literature on adaptive comanagement (ACM). Adaptive comanagement is an emergent governance approach for complex social–ecological systems that links the learning function of adaptive management (experimental and experiential) and the linking (vertically and horizontally) function of comanagement. Given the rapid growth of adaptive comanagement scholarship, there is value in a systematic analysis of how the concept is being conceptualized to elucidate agreement and discrepancies and to examine the challenges this presents for cross-case comparisons and the possibility of arriving at more generalizable insights. A synthesis-based methodology has been developed involving a comprehensive search and screening of academic databases and the internet. A detailed analysis of 108 documents was undertaken to characterize the state of the ACM literature, unpack the construct of ACM, and examine relationships among aspects of ACM based on accumulated experiences to date. The systematic review and analysis reveals imprecision, inconsistency, and confusion with the concept. Robust evidentiary insights into how the variables or components of ACM interrelate as well as relate to goals and outcomes are, therefore, presently not possible. These findings lead to the discussion of a series of challenges for ACM scholarship. Opportunities remain for ACM scholars to pursue theoretical development in rigorous ways that facilitate empirically based cross-site comparisons.

Key words

adaptive comanagement; environmental governance; systematic review

Copyright © 2012 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