Service Communautaire d'Information sur la Recherche et le Développement - CORDIS

Novel analytic framework for investigating social-ecological resilience

Title: Rural tourism and the resilience of regions.

Most new EU Member States started from very low levels of tourism activities, especially in rural areas. Over the last 15 years tourism has become increasingly important in some regions, especially in areas with some natural beauty (see also Kaufmann, et al. 2006 for developments of tourism in combination with organic farming), or in more traditional locations. The nature of the emerging tourism sector differs significantly between regions. Some regions focus on a specific tourism activity, while others foster and support a range of different activities. As a general pattern we found that more diverse tourism helps to maintain or increase the resilience of a region. However the evidence is much more mixed when it comes to areas, which have already high levels of tourism activities, such as some regions in Slovenia. Hence, the positive impact of increased diversified tourism is highest were its original level was low.

Social memory and social networks are important factors enhancing the adaptive capacity of regions. But keeping social memory in a region, with its very nature of constant renewal, can pose a challenge when labour mobility is high. Another threat to the adaptive capacity of regions is the (un) skilful leadership of local elites and administrations. This is especially the case if the distribution of power in the community is very uneven, and local elites protect each other to form a system with little permeability to outsiders.

The extent to which they seek cooperation for developing solutions on the regional or cross-local levels remains limited. A typical reason for missing opportunities for cooperation and development is short-term oriented local egoism. By increasing the reaction time to shocks, this can increase the renewal process after a disturbance and hence limit the speed of the development process for the region. Supporting factors of social memory, in turn, is for example, the increased engagement of local stakeholders in broader participatory process of decision-making about natural resource management.

In a few cases, we also found that high support of the government and park administration for nature protection combined with a lack of consistent policies can cause local populations to perceive their protected areas as a limitation for the development of tourism and other economic activities.

We conclude that in the context of such complex relationships within and between local and regional social-ecological systems, for local communities and regions to harvest their full development potential while staying within the environmental limits, adaptive governance systems are needed for facilitating between different interests horizontally (regional/local integration of sector policies, interests of local people, etc.) and vertically, by influencing different levels with their specific internal logics and speeds of development.

There are currently new institutional arrangements being negotiated in several regions and some regions are already putting elements of adaptive management structures in place. Targeted support in this institution-building phase could support natural resource management in European biodiversity-rich areas in the long term. Skilful development of local leaders/facilitators is of particular importance, as individuals in crucial positions can greatly influence development especially on the local level, but also on the regional level.


Sigrid STAGL, (Senior Fellow)
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