Cooperation amongst resource users holds the key to overcoming the social dilemma that characterizes community-based common-pool resource management. But is cooperation alone enough to achieve sustainable resource use? The short answer is no. Developing management strategies in a complex social-ecological environment also requires ecological knowledge and approaches to deal with perceived environmental uncertainty. Recent behavioral experimental research indicates variation in the degree to which a group of users can identify a sustainable exploitation level. In this paper, we identify social-ecological micro-foundations that facilitate cooperative sustainable common-pool resource use. We do so by using an agent-based model (ABM) that is informed by behavioral common-pool resource experiments.
In these experiments, groups that cooperate do not necessarily manage the resource sustainably, but also over- or underexploit. By reproducing the patterns of the behavioral experiments in a qualitative way, the ABM represents a social-ecological explanation for the experimental observations. We find that the ecological knowledge of each group member cannot sufficiently explain the relationship between cooperation and sustainable resource use. Instead, the development of a sustainable exploitation level depends on the distribution of ecological knowledge among the group members, their influence on each other’s knowledge, and the environmental uncertainty the individuals perceive.
The study provides insights about critical social-ecological micro-foundations underpinning collective action and sustainable resource management. These insights may inform policy-making, but also point to future research needs regarding the mechanisms of social learning, the development of shared management strategies and the interplay of social and ecological uncertainty.
Research news | 2019-05-19
Patron-client relations in the Philippines buffer fisheries against immediate impacts of natural disasters. But long-term sustainability may suffer due to the combination with current fishery conditions
Research news | 2019-05-17
Why regreening the Sahel is more than just creating a wall of trees and why one initiative may actually succeed
Research news | 2019-05-17
Special feature in Sustainability Science illustrates how ‘sense of place’ as a concept can contribute more effectively to understanding environmental change
Research news | 2019-05-13
Balancing urban development and residents’ experience of their city is a difficult act. New study presents method for understanding how city dwellers use their cityscape
Research news | 2019-05-09
The centre’s contribution to intergovernmental platform on biodiversity and ecosystem services
Research news | 2019-05-08
New study shows how 65% of land used to support European Union’s non-food bioeconomy is located outside the EU