Matching ecosystem functions with adaptive ecosystem management: decision pathways to overcome institutional barriers

Amar Nanda, Jeroen Rijke, Leah Simone Beesley, Berry Gersonius, Matthew Richard Hipsey, Anas Ghadouani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

9 Citations (Scopus)


Abstract: Environmental management strategies aim to protect or repair ecological assets (ecosystems, species) so that their ecological and social values can be preserved. However, creating an effective strategy is difficult because multiple government departments are involved and because water and land
use legislation and policy instruments are often fragmented. A key obstacle that is often overlooked is the spatial mismatch between ecological processes and institutional organisation (i.e., legislative framework and government departments). Successful management depends on the ability to cultivate
resilient ecosystems through institutional reforms that take into account the complexity of ecosystems while supporting cross-sectoral and scale-dependent decision-making within the science–policy interface. Here,we use a case study approach to illustrate howcollective strategic decisions can bemade tomanage a
valued ecosystemsituatedwithin an urbanmatrix. We used a three-step framework to guide our approach and commenced by identifying a range of adaptation measures (i.e., management interventions) and the actors responsible. For each adaptation measure, we then investigated (i) mismatches among ecosystem and institution scales and levels; (ii) institutional barriers; and (iii) the role of actors in decision making. We use this information to identify ‘decision pathways’: i.e., a flexible decision-making platform that assists stakeholders tomake strategic short- and long-termdecisions. Key insights included the discussion of policy and practical experiences for ecosystem management at different levels and the necessary conditions to provide better alignment between jurisdictional an ecosystemscale to guide decisionmakers accordingly. We detail the institutional and jurisdictional changes that must be implemented across all levels of governance to protect and support the resilience of environmental assets. ‘Short-term’ decision pathways were preferred among actors and cross-level cooperation at jurisdictional level provided an adequate fitwith the ecosystemscale. ‘Long-term’ decisions require substantial change of the institutional framework to enable the implementation of adaptive management. Although challenges at institutional and jurisdictional scales remain, decision pathways promote adaptive ecosystem management through a better fit of jurisdictional and institutional roles/policy and ecosystem-scale processes.
Original languageEnglish
Article number672
Pages (from-to)672
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 23 May 2018


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