95th ESA Annual Meeting (August 1 -- 6, 2010)

OOS 8-5 - Polycentric networks and resilience in urban systems

Tuesday, August 3, 2010: 9:20 AM
301-302, David L Lawrence Convention Center
Michele Romolini, Rubenstein School of Environment and Natural Resources, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT and J. Morgan Grove, Baltimore Field Station, USDA Forest Service, Baltimore, MD

Numerous studies have demonstrated that successful resource management requires collaboration among many groups. While most research has been conducted on rural resource management, collaborative management is now recognized as an important strategy in densely settled urban areas. Cities generally consist of many fragmented land parcels under different types of use and ownership, which produces a large and diverse group of stakeholders with an interest in resource management decisions. Past research has shown that 1) natural resource stewardship organizations play an important role in both managing natural resources and building social capital; 2) successful outcomes often rely on effective collaborations through organizational networks; 3) there are different types of network structures; and 4) the effectiveness of a network can depend on its structure. However, missing from the field is empirical research analyzing how natural resource stewardship networks impact social and ecological outcomes, both spatially and temporally.

Building on pioneering work on urban stewardship groups in New York City, this study assesses the stewardship networks in Seattle and Baltimore. More specifically, it will examine whether the network structure affects social and ecological outcomes; and conversely, whether variation in social and ecological conditions affects the resulting social network. Methods will include social network analysis of data from a organizational network survey. The resulting network data then will be compared to existing social and ecological datasets (e.g. education, income, existing tree canopy, water quality, etc.) at the neighborhood level. The following questions are proposed:

  • What network relationships exist between environmental stewardship groups in Baltimore? In Seattle? 
  • What is the spatial structure of these stewardship networks?  
  • Does network structure affect social and ecological outcomes?
  • Does variation in social and ecological conditions predict the resulting network?
  • How do the stewardship networks in Baltimore and Seattle compare?  


Results from this study will contribute to the growing body of research on polycentric governance networks. The need for longitudinal and comparative studies in this area is evident, as many cities are looking to adaptive management strategies to respond to the needs of a rapidly changing population and landscape. In Baltimore, this data can be compared to organizational network data collected 10 years ago. In Seattle, the study will establish baseline network data, which provides a foundation for future studies. Similarities and differences between cities may provide implications for whether environmental stewardship programs and other sustainability initiatives can be applied from one city to another.