Posts Tagged ‘environmental management’

Forthcoming article in Environmental Modelling

As we put a bow on 2013, I wrapped up my fall semester with the acceptance of an article to the journal Environmental Modelling and Software.  With colleagues Jacopo Baggio, Kenny Salau, and Marco Janssen, we ran some agent-based modeling simulations for an article entitled “Modeling Decision-making across Habitat Patches:  Insights on Large-Scale Conservation Management”.  The gist of the article was to understand how environmental managers could intervene in a mosaic of connected landscapes for conservation.  We looked at predator-prey dynamics with carrying capacity.  Our goal was to compare management success at helping to sustain both species based on taking a local or global perspective and based on monitoring vegetation levels, prey populations, or predator populations.

Based on the model’s simulation results, we find that a global perspective (looking across the network) results in better outcomes than looking at an individual habitat patch (which is what many land managers end up doing in the real-world).  This, of course, is not surprising.  We also found that if managers were constrained to only monitor one population, they did best by looking at prey population levels.  This seems to be because its intermediary position provided insight into levels higher and lower on the food chain.  However, this goes against some theoretical perspectives that articulate monitoring at the lowest level (vegetation).

Our next step is to try to find real-world data to ground our models in empirical results.  We also hope to overlay a network of managers to see how their interactions affect outcomes and whether they are contingent on source-sink dynamics or other network possibilities.  Stay tuned.


Research Ideas on Boundaries and Natural Resource Management

Compare these two images:


On the left is a photo of the South Africa-Mozambique border in the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Park.  On the right is a classic border shot from the Sierra Club of the US-Mexico border wall.  In both cases, these fences are in the middle of regions with a great deal of transboundary conservation and collaborative environmental management.  In both cases, we have tremendous economic disparity driving illegal migration and law enforcement responses (US-Mexico difference in GDP/capita = 3333% and South Africa-Mozambique = 9750%).  In addition, the US and Mexico struggle with drugs and gun smuggling.  South Africa and Mozambique have smugglers, but they also face one of the worst outbreaks in rhino poaching in recent times.  ALL rhinos in the Mozambican section of the transboundary park have been slaughtered in the past year (see  See also this brilliant response by Biggs et al in Science:

In such environments, it may be questionable to see how transboundary conservation can work.  In fact, these are hardly the most trying cases.  See these efforts in the Korean DMZ ( or these in Israel-Palestine (  My own work over the past several years has focused on working across borders in conservation and environmental management in Southern Africa and along the US-Mexico border, the locations in the two photos.

My latest project, in conjunction with David Manuel-Navarrete of ASU’s School of Sustainability and Forrest Fleischman of Dartmouth College, compares theories of borders and boundaries from common-pool resource literature with that from geography and sustainability to try to understand and bring together ecological boundaries, social boundaries and social conceptions of the first two.  The hope is to better understand effective governance of natural resources and how we can build relationships and work across many types of boundaries.  In the process, we want to create new bridges and dismantle the barriers standing in the way.

Ultimately, I’d like to follow up some of this theoretical work with new case studies in both the US Southwest and in some of the new transboundary parks of southern Africa.  In particular, working with Bram Buscher, we’d like to look at the attempts to reconcile the cross-border challenges of the massif of a transboundary protected area known as KAZA – the Kanvango-Zambezi Transfrontier Park which spans some 300,000 square kilometers across Angola, Botswana, Namibia, Zambia, and Zimbabwe.

Collaboration in Environmental Management and Scale

Just a few quick thoughts…

I have been doing a lot of thinking about the recent push by US Federal agencies for increasing stakeholder engagement and collaborative management.  Most of the discussions within the agencies as well as in the academic literature (in collaborative management, collaborative governance, co-management, etc) have been about collaboration and the social benefits – increasing legitimacy and buy-in, building social capital, gaining access to local knowledge, improving monitoring and enforcement of rules, and so on.  It appears that only occasionally is reference made to the literature that comes from corridor ecology and conservation biology about the gains from changing the scale of management.  The bioregionalism movement focuses on shifting scales and the transboundary conservation work acknowledges this as well.  However, it’s mostly missing from the “collaboration” literature.

The environmental challenges of today are occurring at ever-increasing scales as we approach planetary boundaries in the Anthropocene.  The impacts of increasing populations, affluence, and the globalization of trade, communications, and energy markets have led to a host of problems that span beyond borders.  The real benefits of collaboration, particularly when we look at collaborative governance beyond the most local of scales, seem to accrue from scale expansion, not social benefits.  But I guess this remains to be tested empirically.

– Thoughts from a sleep-deprived new dad