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Special Issues

Resilience and adaptation in the governance of social-ecological systems

Janssen, M.A.
2011 International Journal of the Commons 5(2); 340-512.

Governing the commons: Learning from Field and Laboratory experiments

Janssen, M.A. and J.M. Anderies
2011 Ecological Economics 70(9): 1569-1620.

Journal Articles

A multi-method approach to study the governance of social-ecological systems

Janssen, M.A., F. Bousquet and E. Ostrom

2011 Natures Science Société  19(4): 382-394.


In this paper, we discuss the lessons learned from a project that combined different types of methods to study the interaction of ecological dynamics, experience of resource users, and institutional arrangements. We combined theoretical computational models, laboratory experiments with undergraduate students in the USA, field experiments and role games with villagers in rural Thailand and Colombia. The expectation at the start of the project was that specific experience with resource management would affect the way participants play the game and the rules they would develop. We found that contextual variables, such as trust in other community members and the feeling of being an accepted member of the community, and also the ecological context had significant explanatory power, more than experience. Another conclusion from using these different methods is the fact that the quality of resource management lies more on the possibility of communication rather than on the types of rules crafted or selected.

Keywords: Colombia; Thailand; role-playing games; fishery; forestry; irrigation; laboratory experiments; field experiments


Coordination and Cooperation in Asymmetric Commons Dilemmas

Janssen, M.A., J.M. Anderies and S. Joshi

2011 Experimental Economics 14(4): 547-566.


In this paper we discuss laboratory experiments that address the problem of self-governance in an asymmetric commons dilemma. Small-scale irrigation systems that provide food for hundreds of millions of people around the world are probably the most common example of such dilemmas. Here, we formulate an abstract dilemma in which subjects make both a decision about investment in the provision of infrastructure associated with the use of a resource and about how much to extract from the common-pool resource made available by this infrastructure. The impact of inherent asymmetry in irrigation systems on the provision of a resource and the impact of communication on the capacity of the group to solve the two-level commons dilemma of cooperation and coordination based on the analysis of the experimental data are discussed.

Keywords: Common-pool resources; Asymmetry; Irrigation; Fairness; Real-time experiment


The fragility of robust social-ecological systems

Anderies, J.M. and M.A. Janssen (Editorial)

2011 Global Environmental Change 21(4): 1153-1156.

Resilience and adaptation in the governance of social-ecological systems

Janssen, M.A. (Editorial)

2011 International Journal of the Commons 5(2): 340-345.

Resource intruders and robustness of social-ecological systems: An irrigation system of Southeast Spain, a case study

Pérez, I., M.A. Janssen, A. Tenza, A. Giménez, A. Pedreño and M. Giménez

2011 International Journal of the Commons 5(2): 410-432.


Globalization increases the vulnerability of traditional social-ecological systems (SES) to the incursion of new resource appropriators, i.e. intruders. New external disturbances that increase the physical and socio-political accessibility of SES (e.g. construction of a new road) and weak points in institutional SES of valuable common-pool resources are some of the main factors that enhance the encroachment of intruders. The irrigation system of the northwest Murcia Region (Spain) is an example used in this article of the changes in the structure and robustness of a traditional SES as a result of intruders. In this case study, farmers have traditionally used water from springs to irrigate their lands but, in recent decades, large agrarian companies have settled in this region, using groundwater to irrigate new lands. This intrusion had caused the levels of this resource to drop sharply. In an attempt to adapt, local communities are intensifying the use of resources and are constructing new physical infrastructures; consequently, new vulnerabilities are emerging. This situation seems to be heading toward the inevitably collapse of this traditional SES. From an institutional viewpoint, some recommendations are offered to enhance the robustness of SES in order to mitigate the consequences of intruders.

Keywords: Adaptability, common-pool resources, globalization, groundwater, institutions, resilience, water management


Governing the commons: Learning from Field and Laboratory experiments

Janssen, M.A. and J.M. Anderies (Editorial)

2011 Ecological Economics 70(9): 1569-1570.

Context matters to explain field experiments: results from Thai and Colombian fishing villages

Castillo, D., F. Bousquet, M.A. Janssen, K. Worrapimphong, and J-C. Cardenas

2011 Ecological Economics 70(9): 1609-1620.


During the last decade, field experiments regarding the study of common pool resource governance have been performed that replicated earlier findings of laboratory experiments. One of the questions is how the decisions made by participants in rural communities are influenced by their experience. This paper presents the results of field experiments in Colombia and Thailand on fishery resources. Context information is derived from the communities via in-depth interviews, surveys and role playing exercises. The use of different methodological tools allowed to link decisions in field experiments with contextual variables for two fishery villages. Explanation of core variables in social dilemmas is given, the degree of cooperation levels, preferred rules, rule compliance and enforcement. Main findings include: i) fishermen made decisions in the field experiments that reflected their own experience and context, ii) agreements for rule crafting are possible only under specific conditions that guarantees livelihoods and sustainability, iii) the broader context determines cooperation levels at a local level, iv) inequalities in the sanctioning of rule breakers decrease the possibilities of reaching cooperation agreements, and v) high levels of trust among local fishermen is not a sufficient condition for resource sustainability, when trust in external rule makers and enforcers is low.

Keywords: Field experiments; Role games; Fisheries; Rules; Cooperation; Trust


Head-enders as stationary bandits in asymmetric commons: Comparing irrigation experiments in the laboratory and the field

Janssen, M.A., J.M. Anderies and J.C. Cardenas

2011 Ecological Economics 70(9): 1590-1598.


The emergence of large-scale irrigation systems has puzzled generations of social scientists, since they are particularly vulnerable to selfish rational actors who might exploit inherent asymmetries in the system (e.g. simply being the head-ender) or who might free ride on the provision of public infrastructure. As part of two related research projects that focus on how subtle social and environmental contextual variables affect the evolution and performance of institutional rules, several sets of experiments have been performed in laboratory settings at Arizona State University and in field settings in rural villages in Thailand and Colombia. In these experiments, participants make both a decision about how much to invest in public infrastructure and how much to extract from the resources generated by that public infrastructure. With both studies we find that head-enders act as stationary bandits. They do take unequal shares of the common-pool resource but if their share is very large relative to downstream participants’ shares, the latter will revolt. Therefore for groups to be successful, head-enders must restrain themselves in their use of their privileged access to the common-pool resource. The comparative approach shows that this result is robust across different social and ecological contexts.

Keywords: Common pool resources; Experimental economics; Asymmetry; Irrigation


The challenge of understanding decisions in experimental studies of common pool resource governance

Anderies, J.M., M. A. Janssen, F. Bousquet, J-C. Cardenas, D. Castillo, M-C. Lopez, R. Tobias, B. Vollan, A. Wutich

2011 Ecological Economics 70 (9): 1571-1579.


Common pool resource experiments in the laboratory and the field have provided insights that have contrasted to those derived from conventional non-cooperative game theory. Contrary to predictions from non-cooperative game theory, participants are sometimes willing to restrain voluntarily from over extracting resources and use costly punishment to sanction other participants. Something as simple as face-to-face communication has been shown to increase average earnings significantly. In the next generation of experiments, both in the laboratory and in the field, we need to extract more information that provides insight concerning why people make the decisions they make. More information is needed concerning attributes of individuals as well as the social and social–ecological context in which they interact that may give rise to such deviations from theoretical predictions. In the process of extracting more information from participants and the contexts in which they interact, we face several methodological and ethical challenges which we address in this paper.

Keywords: Common pool resources; Collective action; Experimental economics; Methodology; Context


Does greater product information actually inform consumer decisions?: The relationship between product information quantity and diversity of consumer decisions

Sasaki, T., D. V. Becker, M.A. Janssen and R. Nee

2011 Journal of Economic Psychology 32(3): 391-398.


For many consumer goods, the advent of online markets dramatically increases the amount of information available about products’ different features and qualities. Although numerous studies have investigated the effects of information quantity on individual-level decisions, it is still unknown how the amount of attribute information affects group-level patterns of behavior, particularly when consumers are also aware of a choice’s popularity. In the present studies, we hypothesized that when attribute information increases, it may exceed the individual’s cognitive capacity to process this information, and as a result conformity – choosing the most popular item – becomes more likely. In this study, we first examined empirical data collected from human subject experiments in a simulated online shopping experience, and then developed an agent-based model (ABM) to explore this behavioral clustering. Both studies confirmed our primary hypotheses, and the ABM shows promise as a tool for exploring extensions of these ideas.

Keywords: Consumer behavior; Decision making; Cognitive processes; Computer simulation


Scientific concepts for an integrated analysis of desertification

Reynolds, G. Bastin, L. Garcia-Barrios, A. Grainger , R.J. Fernández, M.A. Janssen, N. Jürgens, R.J Scholes, M. Stafford Smith, A. Veldkamp, M.M. Verstraete, G. Von Maltitz, and P. Zdruli

2011 Land Degradation and Development 22(2): 166-183.


The Global Drylands Observing System proposed in this issue should reduce the huge uncertainty about the extent of desertification and the rate at which it is changing, and provide valuable information to scientists, planners and policy-makers. However, it needs careful design if information outputs are to be scientifically credible and salient to the needs of people living in dry areas. Its design would benefit from a robust, integrated scientific framework like the Dryland Development Paradigm to guide/inform the development of an integrated global monitoring and assessment programme (both directly and indirectly via the use of modelling). Various types of dryland system models (e.g. environmental, socioeconomic, land-use cover change, and agent-based) could provide insights into how to combine the plethora of monitoring information gathered on key socioeconomic and biophysical indicators to develop integrated assessment models. This paper shows how insights from models can help in selecting and integrating indicators, interpreting synthetic trends, incorporating cross-scalar processes, representing spatio-temporal variation, and evaluating uncertainty. Planners could use this integrated global monitoring and assessment programme to help implement effective policies to address the global problem of desertification.


Confronting Management Challenges in Highly Uncertain Natural Resource Systems: a Robustness–Vulnerability Trade-off Approach.

Rodriguez, A.A. Cifdaloz, O., J.M. Anderies, M.A. Janssen, J. Dickeson

2011 Environmental Modeling and Assessment 16(1): 15-36.


This paper presents a framework for the study of policy implementation in highly uncertain natural resource systems in which uncertainty cannot be characterized by probability distributions. We apply the framework to parametric uncertainty in the traditional Gordon–Schaefer model of a fishery to illustrate how performance can be sacrificed (traded-off) for reduced sensitivity and hence increased robustness, with respect to model parameter uncertainty. With sufficient data, our robustness–vulnerability analysis provides tools to discuss policy options. When less data are available, it can be used to inform the early stages of a learning process. Several key insights emerge from this analysis: (1) the classic optimal control policy can be very sensitive to parametric uncertainty, (2) even mild robustness properties are difficult to achieve for the simple Gordon–Schaefer model, and (3) achieving increased robustness with respect to some parameters (e.g., biological parameters) necessarily results in increased sensitivity (decreased robustness) with respect to other parameters (e.g., economic parameters). We thus illustrate fundamental robustness–vulnerability trade-offs and the limits to robust natural resource management. Finally, we use the framework to explore the effects of infrequent sampling and delays on policy performance.

Keywords: Resource management; Uncertainty; Robust control; Policy implementation; Learning; Vulnerability


Landscape connectivity, node centrality and predator-prey population dynamics

Baggio, J., K. Salau, M.A. Janssen, M.L. Schoon, and O. Bodin

2011 Landscape Ecology 26(1): 33-45.


Landscapes are increasingly fragmented, and conservation programs have started to look at network approaches for maintaining populations at a larger scale. We present an agent-based model of predator–prey dynamics where the agents (i.e. the individuals of either the predator or prey population) are able to move between different patches in a landscaped network. We then analyze population level and coexistence probability given node-centrality measures that characterize specific patches. We show that both predator and prey species benefit from living in globally well-connected patches (i.e. with high closeness centrality). However, the maximum number of prey species is reached, on average, at lower closeness centrality levels than for predator species. Hence, prey species benefit from constraints imposed on species movement in fragmented landscapes since they can reproduce with a lesser risk of predation, and their need for using anti-predatory strategies decreases.

Keywords: Networks; Landscape; Predator–prey; Coexistence; Survival probabilities; ABM; IBM


Book Reviews

Nowak, M. (2011). Supercooperators: Altruism, Evolution, and Why We Need Each Other to Succeed. New York, NY: The Free Press

Janssen, M.A.
2011 Journal of Artificial Societies and Social Simulation .

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