Human Ecology

, Volume 32, Issue 3, pp 279–311

Institutional Development in the Face of Complexity: Developing Rules for Managing Forest Resources

  • Amy R. Poteete
  • David Welch

DOI: 10.1023/

Cite this article as:
Poteete, A.R. & Welch, D. Human Ecology (2004) 32: 279. doi:10.1023/


The ability to develop institutions is constrained by human capacity to cope with complexity. But complexity is multidimensional and it is not clear which forms of complexity present the greatest challenges for institutional development. In the context of natural resources, the predictability of resource availability affects expectations that an individual or group will be able to capture the benefits of management. In addition, incomplete understanding of cause-and-effect relationships creates uncertainty about the consequences of alternative management options. These features influence calculations about resource management. The importance of resource complexity relative to various social, political, and institutional factors known to influence collective choice remains an open question. We evaluate the relative importance of several forms of resource complexity and characteristics of resource users for the development of rules for management for forest products in Indiana.

complexityforestsinstitutionsnatural resource managementIndiana

Copyright information

© Plenum Publishing Corporation 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Amy R. Poteete
    • 1
  • David Welch
    • 2
  1. 1.University of New OrleansNew OrleansUSA
  2. 2.Indiana UniversityBloomingtonUSA