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Environ Manage. 2005 Feb;35(2):175-93.

Information network topologies for enhanced local adaptive management.

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  • 1Department of Systems Ecology, Stockholm University, 106 91, Stockholm, Sweden.

Erratum in

  • Environ Manage. 2005 Nov;36(5):772-3.


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 system-wide 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.

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