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Local Ecological Knowledge and Institutional Dynamics for Ecosystem Management: A Study of Lake Racken Watershed, Sweden

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The sustainable use of resources requires that management practices and institutions take into account the dynamics of the ecosystem. In this paper, we explore the role of local ecological knowledge and show how it is used in management practices by a local fishing association in a contemporary rural Swedish community. We focus on the local management of crayfish, a common-pool resource, and also address the way crayfish management is linked to institutions at different levels of Swedish society. Methods from the social sciences were used for information gathering, and the results were analyzed within the framework of ecosystem management. We found that the practices of local fishing association resemble an ecosystem approach to crayfish management. Our results indicate that local users have substantial knowledge of resource and ecosystem dynamics from the level of the individual crayfish to that of the watershed, as reflected in a variety of interrelated management practices embedded in and influenced by institutions at several levels. We propose that this policy of monitoring at several levels simultaneously, together with the interpretation of a bundle of indicators and associated management responses, enhances the possibility of building ecological resilience into the watershed. Furthermore, we found that flexibility and adaptation are required to avoid command-and-control pathways of resource management. We were able to trace the development of the local fishing association as a response to crisis, followed by the creation of an opportunity for reorganization and the recognition of slow ecosystem structuring variables, and also to define the role of knowledgeable individuals in the whole process. We discuss the key roles of adaptive capacity, institutional learning, and institutional memory for successful ecosystem management and conclude that scientific adaptive management could benefit from a more explicit collaboration with flexible community-based systems of resource management for the implementation of policies as experiments.

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Received 26 April 2000; accepted 13 October 2000.

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Olsson, P., Folke, C. Local Ecological Knowledge and Institutional Dynamics for Ecosystem Management: A Study of Lake Racken Watershed, Sweden. Ecosystems 4, 85–104 (2001).

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