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Adger et al 2006 Ecology and Society

Copyright © 2006 by the author(s). Published here under license by the Resilience Alliance.
Adger, W. N., K. Brown, and E. L. Tompkins. 2005. The political economy of cross-scale networks in
resource co-management. Ecology and Society 10(2): 9. [online] URL:

Insight, part of a Special Feature on Scale and Cross-scale Dynamics
The Political Economy of Cross-Scale Networks in Resource Co-
W. Neil Adger1, Katrina Brown2, and Emma L. Tompkins2

ABSTRACT. We investigate linkages between stakeholders in resource management that occur at different
spatial and institutional levels and identify the winners and losers in such interactions. So-called cross-
scale interactions emerge because of the benefits to individual stakeholder groups in undertaking them or
the high costs of not undertaking them. Hence there are uneven gains from cross-scale interactions that are
themselves an integral part of social-ecological system governance. The political economy framework
outlined here suggests that the determinants of the emergence of cross-scale interactions are the exercise
of relative power between stakeholders and their costs of accessing and creating linkages. Cross-scale
interactions by powerful stakeholders have the potential to undermine trust in resource management
arrangements. If government regulators, for example, mobilize information and resources from cross-level
interactions to reinforce their authority, this often disempowers other stakeholders such as resource users.
Offsetting such impacts, some cross-scale interactions can be empowering for local level user groups in
creating social and political capital. These issues are illustrated with observations on resource management
in a marine protected area in Tobago in the Caribbean. The case study demonstrates that the structure of
the cross-scale interplay, in terms of relative winners and losers, determines its contribution to the resilience
of social-ecological systems.

Key Words: Caribbean; institutions; marine protected areas; natural resource management; power; social-
ecological resilience; transaction costs.

                                       2002). Yet we argue in this paper that it is important
INTRODUCTION                                 to recognize the winners and losers from cross-scale
                                       interactions on the basis of the exercise of power
We address here the political economy of the                 through domination, resistance, and co-operation.
evolution of cross scale linkages. We suggest that
cross-scale linkages evolve and are maintained by              An understanding of cross-scale linkages is
the organizations and institutions involved in                important in managing multiple use resources. By
resource management to further their own interests.             linkages we mean direct interactions through
Rational choice analysis has always suggested that              networks to provide information or tangible
collective action between directly interested parties            resources related to the management system. Of
in any decision, given the power relations between              course almost all possible natural resources systems
them, does not come about without perceived gain               involve multiple direct users. Even when direct
through the bargain. By the same logic, cross-scale             users of resources are small in number or strictly
interactions come about only because it is in the              limited, there are inevitably multiple external
interest of one or other of the stakeholders involved            stakeholders making claims and calls on natural
to develop and to maintain these linkages. Such an              resources at numerous scales. Cross-scale
account does not, however, explain all social                institutional linkages are the norm and even
interaction between stakeholders in resource
management. Nor can self-interest predict the shape
of interactions in every context (Richerson et al.

Tyndall Centre for Climate Change Research, 2University of East Anglia
                                               Ecology and Society 10(2): 9

universal in natural resource management (Berkes     at the same time, offsetting linkages facilitate the
2002).                          empowerment of local user groups.

Part of this trend towards multiple competing claims
stems from processes of integration of localities,    A POLITICAL ECONOMY OF LINKAGES
societies, and economies in multi-level governance
and economic systems. In a globalized world,
environmental services and functions are         The structure of interplay in resource co-
increasingly seen as public goods. They have       management
multiple beneficiaries and claims to them at national
and global levels. Many ecosystem services, such     The overview paper to this special issue explores
as carbon sequestration functions, the maintenance    how cross-scale and cross-level dynamics can take
of the world's stock of genetic biological resources,   different forms (Cash et al. 2005). From the realm
and shared water resources are all portrayed as      of international agreements through to local level
public goods with a value to global society (Dietz    governance of institutions, there are particular
et al. 2003). Inevitably then, markets are created to   patterns of interaction. These interactions between
generate incentives for conserving the atmosphere,    stakeholders are widely observed (Berkes 2002),
water, habitats, or species, for the benefit of      but they are also widely promoted as solutions to
stakeholders remote from the resources. Direct      sustainability of community-based management
resource users are drawn into market exchanges      (Brown 2003, Berkes 2004). They are promoted
where previously their relationship to resources may   because shared responsibility for management of
have been based on stewardship, self-interest, or     resources creates positive incentives for sustainable
other forms of value (O'Neill 2001). Hence the      use and overcomes problems of legitimacy from
scope for cross-scale linkages has multiplied with    traditional resource management.
the increasing interdependence and global linkages
in the world economy.                   In some cases, the imposition of “traditional”
                             resource management (Fig. 1) by government
In effect we question whether integrated and well-    agencies who define social and environmental goals
linked resource systems (nested within national and    for resource management could be judged as “top
international agendas, regimes, networks, and legal    down” management. In such cases, a regulatory
systems) are a priori more robust or resilient than    framework is imposed on resource users, with the
those with greater autonomy and less linkages.      “imposers” often impervious to feedback or
Anderies and colleagues (2004) argue that failure     learning from resource users and civil society.
of the links between resources, governance systems,    Figure 1 shows linkages between individual agents
and their associated infrastructures reduce the      in the communities. Such local level linkages for
robustness of a social-ecological system. In this     resource management are independent of the
paper, we address in particular the links between     regulatory framework and indeed networks often
elements of the governance of social-ecological      develop to substitute for de iure regulations or act
systems: these are the links between resource users    to circumvent them (Pretty and Ward 2001, Pretty
on the one hand, and regulators and government      2004).
agencies on the other (Anderies et al. 2004). We
argue that part of the persistence and stability of the  One of the main problems identified with the top-
governance system depends on the distribution of     down model of interaction between government
benefits from cross-scale linkages, demonstrated by    agencies and resource users in Figure 1 is that these
the ability of the system to command legitimacy and    so-called “traditional” resource management
trust among the resource user and the governmental    practices lead to locked-in patterns of resource use.
stakeholders. If the structure of cross-scale linkages  These patterns are often detrimental to the ability to
reduces trust then the robustness of the system is in   adapt to surprise and shock: management based
question. In empirical research, we examine the      solely on the stability of systems creates its own
structure of interplay of cross-scale linkages in the   pathologies of risk (Holling and Meffe 1996).
context of a marine protected area in Tobago in the    Carpenter et al. (2001) propose that rather than
eastern Caribbean. We argue that the benefits from    seeking adaptation decisions that maximize
emerging and dynamic linkages are frequently       efficient use of resources at one time scale, a more
uneven, often reinforcing existing inequalities. But,   desirable normative goal should be the enhancement
                                              Ecology and Society 10(2): 9

Fig. 1. A representation of traditional resource management interactions between government and resource

of resilience of social-ecological resource systems   management is de rigeur and promoted throughout
to allow for flexibility and perseverance of a system  the world through decentralization of control from
in a state that provides resources and services to   government agencies to institutions and committees
users.                         of so-called co-management of resources. There are
                            a number of benefits to the co-management of
The system of resource management portrayed in     resources, defined here as shared responsibility
Figure 1 is a stylized representation that is, it    between institutions of the state and of local
appears, at odds with much rhetoric on conservation   resource users. Co-management can lead to reduced
practice throughout the world. Community-based     enforcement costs, the sharing of knowledge and
                                              Ecology and Society 10(2): 9

Figure 2. Interactions between government and civil society in co-management arrangements.

Brown et al. 2002.

information on the resource, and systematic       users and markets. With appropriate governance
learning between all parties. This situation is     structure for sharing rights and responsibilities for
portrayed in Figure 2, contrasting with ‘traditional’  management, there are more direct linkages
resource management depicted in Figure 1, with the   between agents of government and resource users,
two main protagonists being institutions of the state  while information and learning processes flow
(top) and the community (bottom). Under co-       between them (Fig. 2).
management, the resource users retain their internal
linkages and horizontal linkages to other resource
                                                Ecology and Society 10(2): 9

Co-management of resources is not a panacea for      to overcome inertia and trigger change (Cash et al.
robustness. There are particular areas of resource     2005). Some of the determinants of cross-scale
conservation where participatory management is, in     interaction are better understood than others. The
effect, a new received wisdom. Yet the devolution     nature of the resources being managed clearly
of responsibility often comes without devolution of    affects, to some degree, the institutional design. The
rights (Adams et al. 2003, Brown 2003). In the       size of the resources, the physical pressure on
developing world in particular, the popularity of     exploitation, the cost of enforcement, and the static
community-based management may have arisen         or fugitive nature of resources all play a part in
because of the reduction of resources and         determining the governance structures of collective
effectiveness of the state and its inability to mobilize  resources (Dolšak and Ostrom 2003). These same
resources to provide public infrastructure. But the    factors are likely to be important in determining the
resources are similarly not available for the new     cross-scale interactions that form part of the
institutions of co-management (Ribot 2002). In such    institutions of governance, and have been proposed
circumstances, cross-scale interactions that develop    by Anderies et al. (2004) as important design
do so as a substitute rather than as a complement to    elements for robust social-ecological systems.
good governance (Cooke and Kothari 2001).
                              Figure 3 portrays the range of cross-scale
There have been a number of reviews of experience     interactions that are commonly observed in co-
of co-management (Berkes et al. 2001, Brown et al.     management arrangements in addition to the
2002) and attempts to explain “best practice” within    linkages between state and local community (as
resource co-management (Berkes 2004). These        portrayed in Figure 2). Local level resource users
have focused on the legitimacy of the interactions     make common cause with communities in the same
between resource users and government agencies       situation to learn lessons and spread best practice,
and on the incorporation of local and scientific      as well as to act cooperatively in bargaining with
knowledge into management. Olsson et al. (2004)      government. These are portrayed as horizontal
and Tompkins et al. (2002) have hypothesized pre-     linkages between resource users, other civil society
requisites for sustained interaction between        groups and scientific organizations, media and
stakeholders in co-management that include: (1)      advocacy organizations both within and external to
enabling constitutional order and legislation, (2) the   the locality and jurisdiction of the resources (Fig.
ability for organizations to monitor and adapt their    3). Similarly, government agencies involved in
co-management experiments, and (3) the presence      resource management frequently have horizontal
of leaders and agents for change.             linkages to cognate departments and organizations.
                              Vertical external linkages portrayed in Figure 3
Design principles for cross-scale interaction are     include those by both communities and agencies to
only part of the story. Berkes (2002) argues that     government and regulatory agencies at other levels.
virtually all resource management systems have
some external linkages and drivers at different
scales. He argues that a failure to recognize these    Power relations determine the nature of
linkages is a central reason for some unsuccessful     interaction
interventions in resource systems and that the
persistence of resource degradation may be in part     The arrows in Figure 3 show the existence of cross-
related to ‘cross-scale institutional pathologies’: “it  scale interactions. But these cross-scale interactions
is useful to start with the assumption that a given    can take different forms. Young (2002, 2005)
resource management system is multi-scale and that     classifies the interactions between institutions at
it should be managed at different scales          different levels (i.e., vertical interplay) as being in
simultaneously” (Berkes 2002:317).             the form of dominance, separation, merger,
                              negotiated outcome, or systemic change by both
The linkages between resource stakeholders at       parties. We hypothesize that the form of these
different scales are then determined by the structure   interactions is determined by both the power
of the vertical and horizontal interplay between      relations inherent within them and the transactions
actors; the characteristics of the resource being     costs associated with them.
managed; aspects of agency such as the emergence
of leadership and the translation of knowledge at     First, power and the exercise of power determine
different levels; and the social construction of crisis  how cross-scale interactions occur. The analysis of
                                              Ecology and Society 10(2): 9

Figure 3. Cross scale linkages in resource management.

Co-management institutions instigate linkages to other regulators and users. They also promote vertical
linkages to access knowledge, resources, and other forms of legitimacy.

power is widespread and contested within the social   aspects of power relating to tactical exercises of
sciences. But at its core there is an understanding of  power through mechanisms of social interaction
power as the application of action, knowledge, and    and, on the other hand, structural implications of
resources to resolve problems and further interests   power that are manifested through the distribution
(Lukes 1974, Few 2002). Few (2002) makes a key      of resources and influence. Thus power may be
distinction between, on the one hand, sociological    exercised through different mechanisms at different
                                                Ecology and Society 10(2): 9

temporal and spatial scales. Peterson (2000) has
argued for a simple hierarchy: the exercise of power   The negative implications of cross-scale linkages
at local levels is overt and power at higher temporal   on the less powerful can, however, be offset by other
and spatial scales is always covert or structural     types of linkage. Some forms of both vertical and
(Lukes 1974). This does not seem to be supportable.    horizontal interaction promote and facilitate so-
Clearly different manifestations of power are not     called “political capital” (Birner and Wittmer 2003).
scale dependent in time or space because power is     Community interactions in co-management and in
in the very fabric of social systems and resides in    vertical interplay with other institutions have been
every perception, judgement, and act, no matter      shown in particular circumstances to side benefits
what the context (Foucault 1986, Few 2002). Power     of politicizing and empowering the local level
is embedded in the ideas and discourses that frame    institutions. Hence the vertical interplay, depending
the resource management problem in hand and        on its structure, can change the nature of the bargain
operates largely independent of scale (Pritchard and   and power relations between stakeholders. Birner
Sanderson 2002).                     and Wittmer (2003) argue that the high level of
                             political mobilization of the rural population of
Hence the important elements of power in         Thailand who were involved in community forestry
determining the interactions between actors across    practices was so significant that it helped to
scales are how decisions are negotiated, how trade-    strengthen the nation's democratic institutions at
offs are made to give room for manoeuvre, and how     crucial periods over the past decades [see Sneddon
other actors are enrolled on a cause (Arce and Long    (2003), however, on the contested definitions of
1992). Knowledge is a key resource in the exercises    political power in this context]. Birner and Wittmer
of power: it is used by both dominant parties and by   (2003) show that social capital built through shared
those resisting action. Actors across social and     resource management can give impetus to political
temporal scales use these same mechanisms in the     action through a number of mechanisms.
exercise of power.
                             Social interaction in resource management provide
The issues of power within cross-scale interactions    platforms for political participation, foster political
are illustrated in the case of political linkages by   ideas, as well as more fundamental issues of
rubber tappers in Amazonia. Brown and Rosendo       building skills for public debate and knowledge of
(2000) outline the strategies of community-based     political processes. These potential gains from
organizations of small scale rubber tappers in      vertical interplay for the less powerful stakeholder
Rondonia in Brazil in promoting their interest      groups are a counterpoint to the coercive dominance
through bypassing local governance structures.      of some forms of linkage. The institutions of co-
They show that the rubber tappers successfully      management, in effect, exhibit cross-scale linkages
recruited the resources of international organizations,  that can potentially subvert assumed power
including the World Bank in “levelling the playing    hierarchies from top to bottom in institutional scale.
field” with state and federal government agencies.
The linkages they adopted (vertical linkages in Fig.   The second element in the political economy of how
3) allowed them to deploy both information and      cross-scale interactions occur is the cost of
resources to renegotiate their sphere of influence in   knowledge. The cost of obtaining knowledge is a
resource management and to secure their          key element itself in the calculus of power. In
livelihoods. But such international alliances are     institutional economics, these costs are known as
potentially fragile. In this case, they posed political  transaction costs and are made of up the costs
risks for the grassroots organizations in their      associated with searching for information,
dealings with government (Conklin and Graham       searching for partners in collective action, drawing
1995). Government agencies, usually dominant in      up and enforcing contracts, and building up
their relationship with the rubber tappers'        networks and social capital. In neo-classical
organizations, lost trust in the existing institutions  economics, transactions costs relate primarily to the
of governance, excluded the local resource users,     costs of exchange and search within markets.
and set up their own cross-scale interactions to re-   Hence, neo-classical economics portrays such costs
establish their dominance. Thus cross-scale        as a drag on efficiency. But there are broader
interactions are always negotiated outcomes of      transaction costs in social interactions around
power relations, reaffirming the hierarchies of      environmental and resource management. The
institutions and actors.                 desired outcomes of environmental management
                                                 Ecology and Society 10(2): 9

such as the maintenance of ecosystem services and      views see Baland and Platteau 1999, Agrawal 2001,
resilience are more often public rather than private    Adams et al. 2003). Hence we argue that particular
goods (Eggerston 1995, Krutilla 1999). Hence        horizontal and vertical linkages may simply
transaction costs for resouce management involve      promote the individual institutions without
negotiations over shared values, objectives and       promoting the flexibility or trust of the overall
consensus around sustainability, and involve social     management structure or its adaptability.
interaction (as depicted in Fig. 3) well beyond
simple market exchange.                   It is not sufficient, of course, simply to observe that
                              many governance systems exhibit inequality in
Some transaction costs are related to interactions     resources and hence the powerful usually get their
between regulators and resource users. In cases       way. The reasons why inequality is important have
where these linkages involve contracts and         been examined carefully by Boyce (1994), Baland
exchanges, transaction costs can be significant and     and Platteau (1999), and others. Boyce (1994)
can limit the positive outcomes. Falconer (2000),      demonstrates theoretically that in resource
for example, shows that farmers failed to adopt       allocation decisions, the unequal power relationships
voluntary conservation practices in the UK even       inherent in unequal distributions of wealth lead to
where they were being paid to do so because of the     undesirable outcomes. If it is, in general, the
perceived high transaction costs in setting up the     powerful who gain most from environmentally
contracts with government agencies. Policy         damaging activities, then the bargained solution
mechanisms to avoid this mismatch in transactions      between these winners and the less well-off losers
costs include reducing the costs to farmers         (sufferers of the impacts of the environmentally
associated with voluntary schemes through farmers      damaging activity) will be skewed towards the
negotiating collectively, or through governments      benefits of the powerful. This occurs for a number
incurring the transaction costs themselves and       of reasons including the additional transactions
futher compensating farmers for their time in        costs of the bargaining on the less well-off group.
negotiations and providing information (Falconer
2000).                           If wealth and resources of the stakeholders are
                              correlated with their power and status at individual
It is well understood, therefore, how transaction      and collective levels, then inequality in itself leads
costs limit action and constrain the exercise of      to less co-operative linkages and less desirable
power (both domination and resistance). Costs        outcomes for the linkages that actually emerge.
associated with initial search and building up of      Power in decision-making is, of course, related to
networks (the links portrayed in Fig. 3) are fixed     more than simply wealth or resources: it is
costs and act as an initial barrier to such interactions.  circumscribed by cultural and other determinants of
Learning to engage policy makers through scientific     governance (Scott 1998, Ribot and Peluso 2003).
and technical language or understanding the         This explains why the powerful tend to get their
objectives of disparate organizations are, in effect,    way, whatever the source of power.
transaction costs of cross-scale negotiations and
linkage. They become sunk costs when the          The range of potential interactions outlined by
interactions are established and hence many cross-     Young (2004), including coercive dominance and
scale linkages are effectively institutionalized.      systemic change, highlights that the incentives and
Trust is vital to the continued existence of many      potentially the benefits from the interactions are
linkages and trust is “costly”: it builds up through    uneven. Dominance of an institution at one level
repeated interactions and institutionalization of the    clearly leads to winners and losers. Institutions at
links.                           all levels, however, from resource users to
                              international organizations, utilize cross-scale
When the costs of setting up and maintaining cross-     linkages to further their own interests and agendas
scale linkages are high, information and knowledge     within their management systems whether they are
become highly asymmetric within the governance       dominant or are simply resisting change. On the
system. The powerful have the important           positive side, where there are material conflicts over
information because they can afford to invest in      the distribution and allocation of resources, cross-
obtaining it. Conflicts associated with these        scale linkages provide a platform for their
asymmetries can cause conflict and can eventually      resolution.
undermine the governance structures (for differing
                                               Ecology and Society 10(2): 9

In summary then, we have argued in this section that   impacts outlined in the sections above.
cross-scale linkages are ubiquitous to resource
management institutions within social-ecological     Identification of power relations between resource
systems. We have shown that the power relations      users and the identification of cross-scale linkages
between the institutions effectively determine the    that were a part of the governance system required
emergence and persistence of the cross-scale       intensive interdisciplinary research. The research
interactions, whatever form they take. And these     process undertaken by us from 1997 to 2001 became
power relations are universal: they are related to the  integral to evolving management of the Park. Hence
application of knowledge and resources to further     the researchers and actors from the government
particular interests and pervade all forms of social   agencies involved became identifiable stakeholders
interaction. They have an economic dimension; the     in the outcome of the management. The research
costs of setting up and maintaining linkages are     used participatory methods including focus groups,
important. When power is unevenly distributed,      ranking exercises, and consensus workshops. The
more powerful actors can tilt the playing field such   initial interactions between stakeholders were based
that information and knowledge are further skewed     on trust built up over two years. Thus the
in their favor. The implications of this political    observations on power relations and cross-scale
economy approach to linkages are now illustrated     linkages below are derived both from formally
with reference to a resource management system      elicited perceptions of stakeholders themselves and
around a protected area in the Caribbean to        from observations of the researchers acting as part
demonstrate the nature of winners and losers from     of the management process.
                             One of the identified constraints to co-management
                             in Trinidad and Tobago is that various levels of
A CASE STUDY OF GAINERS AND LOSERS            government involved in management of coastal
FROM INTERPLAY                      resources are often conflicting in their aims and in
                             their attitudes to co-management and sharing
The foregoing discussion suggests that not all      responsibility. Thus we further investigated pre-
interplay is equal in terms of its influence on action.  requisites for sustainable and successful co-
The implications of cross-scale linkages in reality    management at the scales involved in managing the
can best be deduced from cases of where such       marine park within its multiple jurisdictions. Each
interactions occur. The issues raised are examined    set of stakeholders recognized the constraints on
in this case with respect to co-management        information and the tactics by which other groups
arrangements of a marine protected area in Tobago     either facilitated or blocked their attempts to build
in the eastern Caribbean. The decline of coral reef,   networks and cross-scale linkages. Across the
water quality, and fisheries resources over recent    stakeholder groups we documented perceptions of
decades spurred the government of Trinidad and      how these power relations played out. Table 1
Tobago in the 1990s to initiate a marine protected    demonstrates, for example, that at both operational
area called the Buccoo Reef Marine Park. Efforts to    and structural levels, stakeholders perceived
share responsibility and promote co-management      problems both in developing cross-scale linkages
were initiated and partially supported through action   (e.g., inadequate staff and resources, low levels of
research in the late 1990s. The research reported     innovation) and in accessing information on how
here attempted to identify conflicts and trade-offs    these linkages could be developed. These
between users of the Park and to seek consensus on    perceptions in Table 1 reflect the underlying power
ways forward in co-management. Both government      of actors at different levels.
and local user groups engaged in outreach activities
making linkages to both the research and         In addition, the demand by most of the stakeholders
management processes and to other institutions at     for cross-scale linkages to aid their co-management
various levels (as portrayed in Fig. 3). The research,  of resources are subject to external constraints and
carried out over four years, involved investigation    influences. While Trinidad and Tobago law outlines
of the techniques for identifying trade-offs and     the rules governing national parks and protected
building consensus for co-management of the Park     areas within the country, for example, the legal
(Brown et al. 2001, 2002). The observations in this    framework is increasingly steered and constrained
paper are an analysis of the linkages and process of   by international guidelines and initiatives on
management through the lens of power and its       protecting biodiversity and various other
                                                  Ecology and Society 10(2): 9

Table 1. Perceptions of constraints to cross-scale linkages for participatory resource management among
regulators and resource users in Tobago, 1999-2001.

Organizational areas   Perceived problems

Operational        Inadequate staff trained in integrated and inclusive approaches.

             Inadequate full-time outreach staff.

             Few successful examples of integrated and inclusive approaches.

             Over-use of external consultants.

Structural        Information hoarding.

             Inadequate public access to information.

             Project-driven approaches impose project cycle and time-tabling.

             Government workers slow to adapt methods used by external groups and communities.

Tompkins et al. 2002.

international agreements and aid donors. Indeed in      linkages at the operational level, these linkages
Trinidad and Tobago participatory consultation for      enabled access to resources and information beyond
the establishment of new protected areas has come       the direct interaction.
about mainly through pressure from external
sources, such as the World Bank and mutli-lateral       The sections above highlight the role of knowledge
donor agencies. These external stakeholders are in      and information in the exercise of power. The
fact a major driver of environmental legislation       research project itself represents a major source of
within the country.                      linkage for both civil society groups and
                               government agencies (examples 1, 2, and 4 in Table
There are a large number of cross-scale linkages       2). Access to information became a key aspect of
within the system of co-management of the local        the power relations between stakeholders. For
resource of Buccoo Reef Marine Park, some of         example, the blame for existing degradation of reef
which are summarized in Table 2. Table 2 also         flats had for more than 20 years been attributed the
demonstrates the level which these linkages cross       reef tour operators who take tourists to the reef. This
and attempts to show how the linkages between the       was the highest profile and most visibly obvious
scales do not benefit all stakeholders equally. The      reef degradation problem. Despite their previous
linkages include regular links to implement the        marginalization, the reef tour operators group
organizations of co-management between the          became involved in the co-management process.
regulators and the resource users (Linkage 1 in        Previous scientific information collated as part of
Table 2); links from newly empowered user groups       the research process showed that the long-term
to other best practices in the Caribbean (3) and to      health of the reef was more dependent on reducing
the facilitators of the participatory processes (2);     pollution loadings from coastal development than
and important links to sources of scientific         on changes in tourism practices that had very
information that validated lay knowledge (4) of        localized impacts (Pastorok and Bilyard 1985,
processes of degradation and renewal within the reef     Rajkumar and Persad 1994, Kumarsingh et al.
system. The co-management efforts, although          1998). In this case, the cross-scale linkage
fragile, spurred the formation of local user groups      empowered a previously disparate local users of the
of the Park. These groups engaged in dialogues with      resource to engage in the co-management process
other reef user groups in the Caribbean region        and altered the blame culture of the discourse.
(Geoghegan et al. 1999). Although such civil
society links ostensibly represent horizontal         In the framework above the role of underlying
                                                      Ecology and Society 10(2): 9

Table 2. Differential benefits of cross-scale linkages in Buccoo Reef Marine Park.

Linkages       Example                    Level of linkages            Who benefits?

1. Forum for    Buccoo Reef Advisory Group formed        Resource users with government     Regulators and user
participatory mana- between local resource users and consults    regulators.               groups equally.
gement       with Marine Park authorities; implements
          voluntary wardens and educational

2. Vertical linkages Resource stakeholders use consensus    Both government agencies and         User groups.
to enable      building workshops to activate change and resource users linked with
participatory mana- access NGOs* and local media.       ‘external’ researchers and media.

3. Links to similar  Buccoo Reef resource users make links to   Horizontal linkages between       User groups.
users elsewhere    other co-management groups in St. Lucia    resource users in different
           and throughout the Caribbean.         countries.

4. Links to      Review of scientific evidence on causes of  Both government agencies and      Specific user groups.
scientific information coral reef decline validated the local    resource users linked with       Regulators.
            perceptions of change and knowledge and   ‘external’ researchers and
            attributed change to a range of land-based  scientific information
            causes including sewage treatment and
            land use change.

5. Access and     Marine Park management influenced the     Government stakeholders make      Regulators.
influence over    direction of national (Trinidad and      vertical linkages within
external regulatory  Tobago) legislation through government    government structures
frameworks      channels and linkages, excluding other

* NGOs = non-governmental organizations

inequality in access to information is highlighted as        also highlights examples of differential access to
a key element determining the nature of linkages.          scientific information. Such linkages build the
In the Tobago case, regulatory stakeholders retained        knowledge base and promote the interests of
a gatekeeper role to higher-level regulatory change         individual stakeholders. How do these observations
throughout the negotiation and renegotiation of co-         tie with the suggestions in the previous section on
management responsibilities. The fisheries and           the role of power in cross-scale linkages? It appears
planning authorities had exclusive knowledge and          that once engaged in a process of co-management
some influence over developments in legislation           and rapidly evolving institutional structures,
and planning policy that were the remit of Trinidad         opportunities for cross-scale interactions and
and Tobago national policy agencies. The local           alliances abound. Government agencies tend to
stakeholders remained effectively outside of such          have more resources to engage in such linkages and
processes. Hence cross-level linkages by these           hence to benefit from them. Thus the initial
powerful agents began to undermine trust in shared         distribution of linkages may indeed skew the power
management arrangements. The regulator always            relations between groups. They also have the
appeared, in the perceptions of resource users, to         potential to undermine trust between stakeholder
have a ‘trump card’ of access to central government         groups. But the offsetting trend, that of
and higher level rule making bodies.                empowerment of previously disengaged stakeholder
                                  groups, is also apparent in this case. Thus the
There are many examples, in the case of Buccoo           political economy of cross-scale linkages requires
Reef Marine Park, of cross-scale linkages between          systematic empirical evaluation, recognizing the
resource users and external agents and between           role of power in all its manifestations within
different levels of regulatory institutions. Table 2        processes of negotiation.
                                                Ecology and Society 10(2): 9

                             Responses to this article can be read online at:
In this analysis we have examined the structure of
interplay as a major shaping force in cross-scale
interactions. The cross-scale nature of resource
management systems is under-researched. Many, if
not all systems, are inherently cross-scale and their
                             We thank the UK Department for International
success in promoting sustained engagement and
                             Development, the ESRC Programme on Environmental
resilient and shared management are determined by
                             Decision-making in CSERGE, and the Leverhulme
factors at a range of levels from constitutional and
                             Trust for research support. This article is based on
organizational to those at the level of resource users.
                             research supported (in part) by a grant from the U.
The example above, of the linkages that helped to
                             S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's
shape a co-management arrangement for marine
                             Office of Global Programs for the Knowledge
park management in Tobago, demonstrates that
                             Systems for Sustainable Development Project based
there are many of the types of linkages identified by
                             at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. We
Young (2005) and Cash et al. (2005) that exist
                             also thank the Resilience Alliance and the Initiative
simultaneously and evolve over time.
                             for Science and Technology for Sustainability for
                             organising the meeting on Scale and Cross-scale
The theoretical analysis in the sections above
                             Dynamics in Montreal, October 2003. We thank all
suggests that the structure of interplay in cross-scale
                             the participants for stimulating discussion, David
linkages is intertwined with the political economy
                             Cash for insights and encouragement, and two
of those linkages. There are winners and losers in
                             referees for helpful reviews. This version remains
cross-scale dynamics, though interactions, the
                             our own responsibility.
linkages are by no means a zero-sum game. In
addition, some linkages emerge that radically alter
the playing field while others reinforce existing
inequalities between powerful and less powerful
players. These observations all attest to the role of
power in determining the structure of multi-scale
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