Environmental Management

, Volume 35, Issue 2, pp 175–193 | Cite as

Information Network Topologies for Enhanced Local Adaptive Management

  • Örjan BodinEmail author
  • Jon Norberg


We examined the principal effects of different information network topologies for local adaptive management of natural resources. We used computerized agents with adaptive decision algorithms with the following three fundamental constraints: (1) Complete understanding of the processes maintaining the natural resource can never be achieved, (2) agents can only learn by experimentation and information sharing, and (3) memory is limited. The agents were given the task to manage a system that had two states: one that provided high utility returns (desired) and one that provided low returns (undesired). In addition, the threshold between the states was close to the optimal return of the desired state. We found that networks of low to moderate link densities significantly increased the resilience of the utility returns. Networks of high link densities contributed to highly synchronized behavior among the agents, which caused occasional large-scale ecological crises between periods of stable and high utility returns. A constructed network involving a small set of experimenting agents was capable of combining high utility returns with high resilience, conforming to theories underlying the concept of adaptive comanagement. We conclude that (1) the ability to manage for resilience (i.e., to stay clear of the threshold leading to the undesired state as well as the ability to re-enter the desired state following a collapse) resides in the network structure and (2) in a coupled social–ecological system, the systemwide state transition occurs not because the ecological system flips into the undesired state, but because managers lose their capacity to reorganize back to the desired state.


Adaptive management Local adaptive management Social networks Multiagent simulation Information exchange Resilience 



The authors wish to thank Dr. Marco Janssen for many fruitful and stimulating discussions and for providing critical input to the project. Mr. and Mrs. Gerward helpfully provided access to suitable computer resources for the simulation runs. The terminology of adaptive capacity and transformative capacity have emerged from workshops held by the Resilience Alliance and more detailed definitions will be published elsewhere. The Swedish Research Council provided the financial support for this project.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Systems EcologyStockholm UniversitySweden

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