Governance across the land-sea interface
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Effective governance is urgently needed to reduce the existing pressures on coastal-marine resources due to human activities on both the land and sea. Yet effective governance across the land-sea interface remains elusive in theory and practice. The purpose of my doctoral work is to illuminate the elements of effective governance necessary to address sustainability challenges and ensure the wellbeing of communities situated at the margins of the land and sea. Specifically, I examined (1) the current state of knowledge regarding effective land-sea governance, (2) the contributions of network governance to improving capacities to address social and ecological processes across the land-sea interface, and (3) the conditions that foster transformations towards network governance in land-sea systems. My research was guided by an overall transdisciplinary framing, which allowed for the application of multiple strategies of inquiry – including systematic review and case studies – and a concurrent mixed methods approach to both qualitative and quantitative analysis. Data were collected through a systematic literature search and semi-structured interviews. The case studies were drawn from the Lesser Antilles – a region currently facing multiple sustainability challenges across the land-sea interface due to rapid land-use change, uncontrolled coastal development, and the cross-cutting threats associated with climate change. Systematic review of land-sea governance scholarship found that the main governance challenges associated with addressing land-sea interactions include determining boundaries, addressing cross-scale effects, and accessing appropriate scientific and local knowledge. Science-policy integration and functional fit are the two most referenced ingredients of governance effectiveness across the land-sea interface. However, supportive networks and both social and temporal fit were also cited relatively frequently as factors contributing to governance effectiveness. Despite the presence of a firm knowledge base, the review highlighted the need for improved conceptual richness and theory-building regarding governance across the land-sea interface. In comparative case studies from the southeast coast of Saint Lucia and the southwest coast of Dominica, I examined how network governance contributes to social-ecological fit, or the ability to address social-ecological processes in land-sea systems. I found that network governance has contributed to coordinating management of shared resources and interconnected ecological entities. However, its potential role in promoting co-governance and land-sea integration is yet to be fully realized due to the inertia of existing arrangements. The analysis demonstrates that a more thorough understanding of how network governance emerges in largely hierarchical governance systems is needed in order to improve governance capacities for addressing land-sea interactions in the region. I then examined the processes contributing to the emergence of network governance in four embedded case studies: Saint Vincent and the Grenadines (focus on Saint Vincent), Antigua and Barbuda (focus on Antigua), Grenada, and Saint Kitts and Nevis (focus on Saint Kitts). Drawing on network governance theory and the concept of governance transformations, I investigated the conditions that foster transformations towards network governance in land-sea systems. I found that participation on collaborative projects has been an essential ingredient in initiating transitions towards network governance. The case studies revealed that project participation was both necessary and sufficient for initiating a transition towards land-sea integration. However, project participation was necessary but insufficient to promote transitions towards co-governance, or state and non-state collaboration in network governance. Other important conditions for initiating transitions include the ratification of multilateral agreements, the presence of boundary-spanning organizations, and experience with extreme events (e.g., tropical storms). The leadership of central actors and core teams can help ensure that ongoing transitions proceed towards network governance. Also, it will be important to find innovative governance strategies or arrangements that can leverage and build the latent capacities found within communities to improve the emergence of co-governance. These strategies will likely challenge current conceptions of network governance in the region. A synthesis across these analyses yields three broader contributions. First, my research supports the proposition that network governance can be beneficial to address land-sea interactions. Network governance as a concept helps bridge the theory and knowledge garnered over the years in attempting to apply integrated and ecosystem-based management. It allows for an examination of how different patterns of collaboration and coordination can help match functional interactions in ecosystems and promote inclusive participation in governance. In practice, such an approach can help match governance simultaneously to both the social and ecological properties of land-sea systems – a challenge that has been pervasive. Second, my research identifies the limitations of network governance specifically in relation to preparing for, and responding to extreme events. The governance networks useful to address land-sea interactions may simply be too cumbersome or inefficient in the face of hurricanes and other storms. Improved integration between land-sea governance networks and the institutional arrangements in place to manage disasters could compensate for these limitations of network governance. Third, my research shows the need to consider multiple modes of governance – specifically, both hierarchical and networked modes – as coexisting, rather than in isolation. Governance networks and the hierarchical mode can be synergistic or antagonistic – either serving to support or undermine one another. My research challenges a view that network governance necessarily implies a hollowing of the state. Rather, I demonstrate how effective network governance is contingent upon appropriate guidance from the state. The state, in such instances, requires a clear mandate to participate in governance networks and ensure sustainable regulation. These contributions – although grounded in the Lesser Antilles context – are relevant for coastal areas and island nations throughout the globe.