A review of social dilemmas and social-ecological traps in conservation and natural resource management

Cumming, Graeme S. (2018) A review of social dilemmas and social-ecological traps in conservation and natural resource management. Conservation Letters, 11 (1).

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Successful conservation depends as much on people working together as it does on sound science and good governance. Research on cooperation in businesses, economics, psychology, and natural resource management has identified shared social and social-ecological dynamics, reviewed and categorized in this article that can create unwanted surprises and problems for conservation efforts. Cooperation may fail when: (1) individual and group benefits are in conflict (social dilemmas) or (2) social-ecological systems become caught in problem-causing and problem-enhancing feedbacks (SES traps). Knowing about and recognizing these dynamics can help decision makers to understand and change key elements of problems and learn from the experiences of others. Social dilemmas have winners and losers, and involve give-some or take-some choices; SES traps are lose-lose situations. Solutions to problems of cooperation in conservation contexts involve identifying the conservation objective and context, diagnosing systemic social dilemmas and SES traps, and developing practical solutions that work with group processes and individuals toward shared and positively reinforcing goals, goal structures, and expectations. Research on cooperation in conservation has largely ignored problems of scale, scaling, and group heterogeneity. The field would benefit from a shift from a probabilistic, empirical approach to a stronger theory-driven, mechanistic, and more diagnostic approach.

Item ID: 52738
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1755-263X
Keywords: Politics, social-ecological system, game theory, psychology, management syndrome, feedback, resilience
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This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.

Funders: James S. McDonnell Foundation (JSMF), ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, German Research Foundation (DFG)
Projects and Grants: DFG Research Unit 2432
Date Deposited: 28 Feb 2018 07:36
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410406 Natural resource management @ 100%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960599 Ecosystem Assessment and Management not elsewhere classified @ 100%
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