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ostrom - Insights on linking forests trees and people from...

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Insights on linking forests, trees, and people from the air, on the ground, and in the laboratory Elinor Ostrom a,b,c and Harini Nagendra a,d a Center for the Study of Institutions, Population, and Environmental Change (CIPEC), Indiana University, 408 North Indiana Avenue, Bloomington, IN 47408; b Workshop in Political Theory and Policy Analysis, 513 North Park, Indiana University, Bloomington, IN 47405; and d Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the Environment (ATREE), 659 Fifth A Main, Hebbal, Bangalore 560024, India This contribution is part of the special series of Inaugural Articles by members of the National Academy of Sciences elected on May 1, 2001. Contributed by Elinor Ostrom, September 18, 2006 Governing natural resources sustainably is a continuing struggle. Major debates occur over what types of policy ‘‘interventions’’ best protect forests, with choices of property and land tenure systems being central issues. Herein, we provide an overview of findings from a long-term interdisciplinary, multiscale, international re- search program that analyzes the institutional factors affecting forests managed under a variety of tenure arrangements. This program analyzes satellite images, conducts social-ecological mea- surements on the ground, and tests the impact of structural variables on human decisions in experimental laboratories. Satel- lite images track the landscape dimensions of forest-cover change within different management regimes over time. On-the-ground social-ecological studies examine relationships between forest conditions and types of institutions. Behavioral studies under controlled laboratory conditions enhance our understanding of explicit changes in structure that affect relevant human decisions. Evidence from all three research methods challenges the presump- tion that a single governance arrangement will control overhar- vesting in all settings. When users are genuinely engaged in decisions regarding rules affecting their use, the likelihood of them following the rules and monitoring others is much greater than when an authority simply imposes rules. Our results support a frontier of research on the most effective institutional and tenure arrangements for protecting forests. They move the debate be- yond the boundaries of protected areas into larger landscapes where government, community, and comanaged protected areas are embedded and help us understand when and why deforesta- tion and regrowth occur in specific regions within these larger landscapes. deforestation reforestation research methods institutions monitoring and sanctioning I n one of the most influential articles written in the last half century, Hardin (1) opened a major debate over the best property rights system for controlling overharvesting of shared natural resources. e Hardin recommended that governments impose public or private ownership on all natural resources, because resource users in what he called ‘‘the commons’’ are helpless to limit use patterns. Many social scientists have pointed out serious problems
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