Social-ecological System Resilience, Climate Change, & Adaptive Water Governance

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Award Year: 
Principal Investigator: 
Barbara Cosens, University of Idaho
Lance Gunderson, Emory University
Associated Program: 

Water, in addition to its role in sustaining human life, supports ecosystems that provide many of the services society relies on. Yet our governance of major water systems has not placed them on a path toward sustainability. Resilience thinking provides a bridging concept between knowledge of the biophysical system and governance principles to move systems of water and society to a more sustainable future. Resilience is a measure of the amount of perturbation a social-ecological system can withstand while maintaining its structure and functions. Research to facilitate sustainability in major water basins must focus not only on ecological resilience, but on how to achieve that resilience in a manner perceived as legitimate by the participants in a democratic society and that begins with the current hierarchical and fragmented system as the baseline from which new approaches must be applied. Achieving this level of integration between ecological concepts and governance requires a dialogue across multiple disciplines, including ecologists with expertise in ecological resilience, hydrologists and climate experts, with social scientists and legal scholars.

This Pursuit seeks to explore whether criteria and models can be developed to link ecological resilience and the policies governing the process of water management in complex, multi-jurisdictional water basins, and will contribute to the growing effort to connect concepts from science to policy decisions and to move social-ecological systems toward greater sustainability.

Craig Allen, University of Nebraska - Lincoln
Anthony Arnold, University of Louisville
Melinda Benson, University of New Mexico
Brian Chaffin, US Environmental Protection Agency
Mary Collins, SESYNC
Robin Craig, University of Utah
Daniel DeCaro, University of Louisville
Alexander Fremier, Washington State University
Ahjond Garmestani, US Environmental Protection Agency
Dale Goble, University of Idaho
Hannah Gosnell, Oregon State University
Olivia Green, US Environmental Protection Agency
Shana Hirsch, University of Idaho
Ramsey Kropf, US Department of the Interior
Kim Ogren, Oregon State University
J.B. Ruhl, Vanderbilt University
Edella Schlager, University of Arizona
Anthony Schutz, University of Nebraska - Lincoln
Mark Stone, University of New Mexico


Resource Title Brief Summary
Identifying Legal, Ecological and Governance Obstacles, and Opportunities for Adapting to Climate Change Apr 22, 2014

Article published in Sustainability.

Columbia River Treaty Options: Protocols for Transboundary Adaptive Management Examined Nov 15, 2014

White paper published in The Water Report

Protocols for Adaptive Water Governance: The Future of the Columbia River Treaty Nov 15, 2014

White paper published by The Program On Water Issues (POWI).

The Adaptive Water Governance Project: Assessing Law, Resilience and Governance in Regional Socio-Ecological Water Systems Facing a Changing Climate Nov 04, 2014

Article published in Idaho Law Review, Natural Resources and Environmental Law Edition.

The Columbia River Treaty and the dynamics of transboundary water negotiations in a changing environment: How might climate change alter the game? Jun 01, 2016

Chapter published in Western Water Policy and Planning in a Variable and Changing Climate.

Adaptive Governance of Water Resources Shared with Indigenous Peoples: The Role of Law Mar 11, 2016

Article published in Water.

Application of the Adaptive Water Governance Project to the management of the Lake Eyre Basin and its connections to the Great Artesian Basin Mar 11, 2016

Report published by Barbara Cosens.

The role of law in adaptive governance Mar 16, 2017

Article published in Ecology and Society.

Legal and institutional foundations of adaptive environmental governance Mar 16, 2017

Article published in Ecology and Society.

Regime shifts and panarchies in regional scale social-ecological water systems Mar 16, 2017

Article published in Ecology and Society.


Associated SESYNC Researcher(s): 
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