Olsson P., Folke C., Berkes F.. 2004. Adaptive co management for building resilience in social-ecological systems. Environmental Management. 34


The article analyses the potential for the dynamic process of adaptive co-management to build resilience in social-ecological systems and support ecosystem management.

Geographic Focus: 


Key Findings: 

Complexity and interconnectedness of ecosystems require adaptive management systems, which provide a means of learning. The authors present the development of adaptive co-management systems, in which local groups self-organize, learn, and actively adapt and shape change. The social and ecological dynamics are combined in the adaptive co-management process. Learning how to respond to environmental feedback is essential in this process. The authors were able to demonstrate that self organising institutions and organisations respond beyond a narrow focus on specific events or occurrences, but instead identify and engage with a wide range of issues associated with ecosystems across scales and multiple actors. Various features of an institutional and organisational landscape were identified that potentially supported social-ecological system resilience. Another key insight was the importance of a mutually strengthening interplay between higher level system elements and lower level processes.


A wide range of stakeholders needs to be part of a social network that facilitates the learning process of ecosystem management and in particular adaptive management. Such stakeholder networks are crucial in the adaptation and change process, because they connect institutions and organizations across levels and scales and facilitate the flow of information across these levels facilitating learning. They also introduce diverse forms of knowledge, which are vital to adaptive learning. To enable the learning environment to flourish, higher level system processes, such as rules and incentives, must strengthen and support lower level processes and vice versa. These strengthening processes are encouraged through flexibility and the capacity for self organisation at various organisational levels, identifying a critical mechanism by which adaptive learning processes occur.