The Role of Bridging Organizations in Enhancing Ecosystem Services and Facilitating Adaptive Management of Social-Ecological Systems

Fig. 7.1
Case study area

The Kristianstads Vattenrike is known for its rich fauna and flora, and in 1975, the 35 km stretch of wetlands along the lower Helgeå River from Torsebro to the Hanö Bay in the Baltic Sea was granted protection by the Convention on ­Wetlands of International Importance. It became known as the Ramsar Convention Site and the County Administration Board became responsible for the management. The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands provided a framework for protecting wetland ­areas from further exploitation, and in its official plan from 1975, the County ­Administrative Board suggested that almost the whole area, 49 km2, should become a nature reserve. However, in 1989, only three percent of the Ramsar Convention Site was protected by reserves (Magnusson et al. 1989). Ownership within the Kristianstads Vattenrike area is mixed between private and public.

During the 1980s, several biological inventories showed that values of the lower Helgeå River and the Ramsar Convention Site were decreasing, despite a number of plans, policy documents, and protection efforts. A major reason was that the area of flooded meadows used for haymaking and grazing had decreased dramatically (Magnusson et al. 1989). Even flooded meadows in nature reserves on state owned land were deteriorating. There was a growing concern that giving the wetlands of the lower Helgeå River Ramsar Convention Site status was not enough to sustain the natural and cultural values of the area. As a response actors started to self-organize and a multilevel governance network for the wetland landscape emerged, with the organization Ecomuseum Kristianstad Vattenrike as a key bridge between local actors and higher levels of governance. The Ecomuseum Kristianstads Vattenrike was launched in 1989 as a municipal organization co-financed by the county board administration. Their first project was to restore flooded meadows in ­collaboration with farmers. They also enhanced access to the wetlands for recreational and ­educational purposes and worked to change the perception of wetlands from “water-logged swamps” to a “water realm.” Since then, they expanded their work across the landscape, and in June 2005, the area was given the status of Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO, thereby becoming a model for sustainable development. In response, the Ecomuseum Kristianstads Vattenrike changed its name to the Biosphere Office.

The Kristianstads Vattenrike case has been extensively studied by resilience ­researchers. Olsson et al. (2004) described the transformation of governance that led to the establishment of Ecomuseum Kristianstads Vattenrike as a bridging ­organization. Hahn et al. (2006, 2008) analyzed the strategies of Ecomuseum ­Kristianstads Vattenrike, and Schultz et al. (2007) analyzed the local steward networks that are involved in their work. This research shows that the Biosphere Office provides a crucial link between local stewards, governmental administrations, and scientists. Local stewards contribute on-site management and monitoring efforts, local ­ecological knowledge, and links to specialized expert networks, and governmental administrations provide access to funding resources, larger data-sets, maps, etc., and the capacity to undertake coordinated efforts (Schultz et al. 2007, Hahn et al. 2008). The bridging organization facilitates this collaboration by identifying the key actors, engaging in building personal relationships with them, and building an attractive and clear vision for the area with a flexible approach to achieving it. Furthermore, they ensure that management is in tune with the ecosystem by synthesizing knowledge from various sources, documenting local ecological knowledge as well as scientific knowledge, and facilitating learning between actors.

An important task for environmental managers is to build support and motivation for management of ecosystem services among citizens. The Biosphere Office Kristianstads Vattenrike invests in enhancing access to places where people can reconnect with local ecosystems, such as outdoor museums, nature schools and walking trails (Schultz and Lundholm 2010). Furthermore, they make an effort to identify and communicate win-win situations between ecosystem management and other private and societal goals (Hahn et al. 2006). They build on participants’ emotional motivations, such as sense-of-place, identity, and the joy of contributing to something meaningful (Schultz et al. 2007) as well as the rational, such as the enhancement of ecosystem services. Whether the enhancement of ecosystem services has really been achieved through the work of the bridging organization is the theme of the rest of the chapter.

Ecosystem Services

Ecosystems play a fundamental role in supporting human activities by providing essential ecosystem goods and services. There are many definitions and classification schemes of ecosystem services . In 2005, the UN-initiated Millennium ­Ecosystem Assessment published its findings after a worldwide assessment of the consequences of ecosystem change for human wellbeing. The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment describes ecosystem services as “goods and services that people obtain from ecosystems” (i.e., the benefits that humans receive from ecosystems), and ­divides ecosystem services into four categories: provisioning, regulating, ­supporting, and cultural services, and also linked them to different constituents of wellbeing (Fig. 7.2).


Fig. 7.2
Linkages between categories of ecosystem services and components of human well being that are commonly encountered

Provisioning services are also termed ecosystem goods and include renewable resources such as food, timber, fuel, water, and genetic resources. Cultural services include educational, recreational, and aesthetic values. Supporting services uphold the provision of the other three categories and include primary production, nutrient cycling, production of atmospheric oxygen, soil formation, and the provision of habitat. The last category, regulating services, includes services such as climate regulation , pollination, water purification, protection against storms and floods, and regulation and control of pests and diseases (e.g., Odum 1989, Costanza et al. 1997, Daily 1997, Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005 ).

The Millennium Ecosystem Assessment concluded that human activities have resulted in a significant degradation and loss of ecosystem services worldwide, with approximately 60 % of the ecosystem services examined being degraded or used unsustainably (Millennium Ecosystem Assessment 2005). This leads to a decrease in human well-being and represents a loss of natural assets, which may ultimately compromise the sustainability of humans in the biosphere. As Costanza et al. stated in their seminal paper on valuations of the world’s ecosystem services and natural capital in 1997, “The economies of the Earth would grind to a halt without the services of the ecological life-support system, so in one sense their total value to the economy is infinite” (Costanza et al. 1997).

Assessing Ecosystem Services in the Flooded Meadows of Kristianstads Vattenrike

The studies in the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment were undertaken at local, ­regional and global scales, incorporating local knowledge and scientific research. One of the Swedish sub-global assessments during the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment was performed in Kristianstads Vattenrike. Through millennia, this area has been transformed through different agricultural practices, creating a unique cultural landscape. The distinctive morphology and geology, the interface between lakes and running water and the brackish water of the Baltic Sea, and the variations in local climates create unique conditions for a diversity of land cover types that, in turn, support a large number of ecosystems and species. The area is home to high biological diversity, including some 20 globally red-listed (i.e., according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species which identifies a species’ risk of becoming extinct in an area) species, some 60 EU listed species, and more than 700 nationally red-listed species of flora and fauna. This figure is high compared to other areas of Sweden, with approximately 30 % of the red-listed species in the province of Skåne occurring in the biosphere reserve (Cronert and Lindblad 2004, Magnusson 2004, Magnusson et al. 2004 ).

The Kristianstads Vattenrike contains many different biotopes, including the largest area of managed flooded meadows in Sweden, covering over 1660 ­hectares. In this chapter we focus on the flooded meadows, which represent a highly ­dynamic ecosystem with annual flooding and fluctuating water levels. Floods generally occur in wintertime with high water levels that decrease toward summer. These flooded meadows are managed by continuous grazing and mowing by cattle, thus maintaining the open landscape (Magnusson 2004).

In their social-ecological inventory, Nekoro and Svedén (2009) mapped ecosystem services supplied by the flooded meadows in Kristianstads Vattenrike through a combination of literature studies, in-depth interviews with local stakeholders, a web-based questionnaire available for the public, and a workshop with stakeholders and experts in the area. Nekoro and Svedén found that all four groups of ecosystem services, including very rich cultural services, are represented in the flooded meadows of Kristianstads Vattenrike (Fig. 7.3). In the group of regulating services, water regulation and flood control, water purification, and air quality control were the most important services. The provisioning services identified were fodder, meat, fish, manure and freshwater. The large number of cultural services included ­recreational values such as bird watching, trekking/hiking, hunting, and fishing, and the value of the flooded meadows as a symbol of Kristianstad and the local identity, as well as education, inspiration, and cultural history. The supporting services, essential for generating the other groups, included primary production, nutrient cycling and cycling of water. The flooded meadows also foster a rich biodiversity, including rare and unique species of both flora and fauna, such as the black-tailed godwit (Limosa limosa), white-tailed eagle (Haliaeetus albicilla), ruff (Philomachus pugnax), great raft spider (Dolomedes plantarius), European catfish (Silurus glanis), and musk orchid (Herminium monorchis) (Nekoro and Svedén 2009).


Fig. 7.3
Visual representation of linkages between ecosystem services and the parties that benefit from them in Kristianstads Vattenrike

Effects of the Bridging Organization

When the Ecomuseum Kristianstads Vattenrike was formed in 1989 it included two nature reserves, covering approximately 190 hectares. In 2011, the area, now a biosphere reserve, comprises 21 nature reserves, with an area covering more than 3600 hectares of various biotopes (Kristianstads Vattenrike Biosphere Office 2011). This development has not only led to protection of important and endangered flora and fauna but also to the safeguarding of ecosystem services. Flooded meadows constitute an ecosystem which has decreased in large parts of Europe as a result of diminished management and development. The flooded meadows of Kristianstads Vattenrike are unique, showing an opposite trend to many other cultural landscapes. Thanks to active involvement by the Ecomuseum Kristianstads Vattenrike, which helped to increase awareness about their importance, local stakeholders were able to not only halt the loss of, but actually increase the area of flooded meadows (Magnusson et al. 2004, Walker and Salt 2006).

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