Table of Contents Alert: ‘Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability 4 (3)’

See below for some of the articles that was published in Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability, 4 (3),  Special Issue: Aquatic and Marine Systems 

Institutional thinking in fisheries governance: broadening perspectives
Ratana Chuenpagdee, Andrew M Song
Abstract: Institutional thinking has long been central to fisheries governance. Defined in its most generic form as structural constraints that provide regularities, reduce uncertainties and shape people’s interactions, institutions create an enabling or controlling environment for specific governing actions and decisions to take place. Over the years, fisheries governance has relied heavily on the creation and evolution of institutions, especially those related to property rights and access rules. A growing body of literature is calling, however, for a broader notion of institutions that can deal with the social, cultural and historical aspects of fisheries, including meanings and values, trust, and norms. This review highlights recent changes and emerging trends, relevant to addressing current challenges in fisheries governance and promoting sustainability.

Priority knowledge for marine environments: challenges at the science–society nexus
Juergen Weichselgartner, Christa A Marandino
Abstract: As scientists call for more research on global environmental change (GEC), it remains an inconvenient truth that if the world had acted upon the knowledge that the scientific community produced, the state of many ecosystems would be different today. This raises questions about the approaches and tools used in assessment and management of GEC processes, including marine environments. By highlighting some challenges, we argue that progress is being blocked by fundamental barriers in the science–policy–practice interface. While global and international efforts can provide overarching structure for marine research, we believe that they are currently insufficient at tackling relevant issues at the science–society nexus. It is no longer the production of more detailed knowledge, but the context for using knowledge and turning it into sustainable actions that is one of the greatest challenges. Consequently, more attention should be paid to synthesising existing local knowledge and resources from non-scientific entities, since these are the avenues through which people experience the changes in marine environments. We emphasise better understanding of the science–society nexus and the conditions for translating research-based knowledge into action. Identification of institutions and organisational structures and the determination of institutional, economic and behavioural changes (e.g. how to anticipate, avoid and/or manage disruptive GEC) can enable effective steps towards sustainable marine environments. Co-designing knowledge is a feasible way to bridge gaps between marine scientists, policy makers and practitioners. Openness and attention to diversity may inspire more democratic ways to organise the science–society nexus.

Recent progress in understanding small-scale fisheries in Southern Africa
Moenieba Isaacs
Abstract: The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), World Bank, Worldfish Center, International Collective in Support of Fish workers (ICFS), World Fisher Forum (WFF), international experts and researchers have all contributed to recent progress in understanding small-scale fisheries. The Big Number Project (BNP) has reconfirmed the importance, scale and size of this sector. Hence, it is crucial that fisheries governance and human rights based approaches secure social and economic justice for small-scale fishers and this should be in balance with environmental sustainability. This paper reviews recent progress in recognising and addressing issues in small-scale fisheries in southern Africa. Specifically it asks what approaches, frameworks, and concepts are driving the discussions and debates on small-scale fishing?

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New Article: ‘The Potential Role of Insurance Law in Addressing Climate Change-related Risks and Disasters in South Africa’

Abstract: Global warming and climate change are now creating new risks and also altering risks we face on a daily basis. The impacts of these are usually on the environment, earth, and atmosphere with devastating effects on movable, immovable, living and non-living things which are all subjects of insurance. It is against this background that this paper examines the potential role of insurance law in addressing these novel weather events-risks  and disasters. The paper argues that despite the fact that these risks are not expressly provided for or defined in the core laws regulating insurance law and business in South Africa, significant provisions are in the Long Term Insurance Law, general principles of insurance law and other related statutes to be the legal basis upon which these risks can be regulated and managed. The article offers insightful proposals for inclusions and reforms by engaging in comparative study.

Full Citation: Odeku, K.O. (2012). The Potential Role of Insurance Law in Addressing Climate Change-related Risks and Disasters in South Africa. Journal of Human Ecology: International, Interdisciplinary Journal of Man – Environment Relationship, 39 (2): 103-113 (Available for download with subscription at: 

New Article: ‘Regulatory Competition—Accounting For the Transnational Dimension of Environmental Regulation’

Abstract: This article argues that the study of regulatory competition can be significantly enhanced by taking into account the impact of transnational environmental law and regulation. The rapid growth of environmental regulation beyond the level of the state does not foreclose opportunities for competition, but it will affect how environmental regulators compete. Most importantly, national as well as non-state regulators may become less inclined to ‘race to the bottom’ or ‘race to the top’. Instead, transnational environmental regulation triggers the emergence of new competitive patterns that respond more strongly to the design, mode of instrumentalisation, implementation and governance of environmental standards than to their quantity and stringency.

Full Citation: Heyvaert, V. (2012). Regulatory competition – Accounting for the transnational dimension of environmental regulation. Journal of Environmental Law, doi: 10.1093/jel/eqs019 (Available for download with subscription at:

New Article: ‘Non-metropolitan Growth Potential of Western Cape Municipalities’

Abstract: This paper provides a brief overview of the relevant post-2000 South African policy for regional (provincial) spatial development within the context of the quantitative findings of a study conducted on the growth potential of non-metropolitan settlements in the Western Cape. The findings are presented at municipal level. Five indices (social needs, economic, physical environment, infrastructure and institutional) and 69 indicators were used to determine development potential and social needs for the 24 local municipalities and three district management areas in the province. The potential indicators for each index were subjected to a factor analysis to select appropriate core indicators for inclusion in the composite indices. Based on their overall performance in the various indices, the municipalities were classified into three categories—high, medium and low. The study results prioritise areas according to their developmental potential and social needs at municipal level.

Full Citation: Donaldson, R., van Niekerk, A., du Plessis, D. and Spocter, M. (2012). Non-metropolitan Growth Potential of Western Cape Municipalities. Urban Forum, 23 (3): 367-389 (Available for download with subscription at: 

New Article: ‘From applying panaceas to mastering complexity: Toward adaptive water governance in river basins’

Abstract: The most persistent obstacles for the sustainable management of water resources lie in the realm of water governance. Numerous recommendations often relying on simplistic ‘standard’ panaceas have been put forward for water governance reform without testing of appropriateness in diverse contexts. Here we present the first comprehensive comparative analysis of complex water governance and management systems in national river basins, compiling insights from 29 basins in developed and developing/emerging countries. To support a generic but contextual diagnostic approach an analytical framework was developed that makes a distinction between water governance regime, regime performance and environmental and socio-economic context. Results provide evidence that polycentric governance regimes characterized by a distribution of power but effective coordination structures have higher performance. This finding is valid for diverse contexts. The results show a weaker and more context dependent influence of legal frameworks on performance. The ability to respond to challenges from climate change is strongly related to polycentric governance and innovative ways for dealing with uncertainty. Furthermore, our results support findings that economic and institutional development often focuses on and leads to fulfilling needs of the human population at the expense of the environment. Rivers in comparatively good condition in countries with poor governance regimes highlight the urgent need to develop effective water governance structures in parallel to economic development.

These exploratory analyses provide valuable methodological and conceptual insights and pave the way for follow-up studies to build a comprehensive knowledge base on complex resource governance systems and diverse management practices worldwide.

Full Citation: Pahl-Wostl, C., Lebel, L., Knieper, C., Nikitina, E. (2012). From applying panaceas to mastering complexity: Toward adaptive water governance in river basins. Environmental Science & Policy, 23: 24-34 (Available for download with subscription at: 

Table of Contents Alert: Ecological Economics Vol. 81

See below for some of the articles that was published in the Special Section: “Planetary Boundaries” and Global Environmental Governance in Ecological Economics Vol. 81

Global environmental governance and planetary boundaries: An introduction
Victor Galaza, Frank Biermann, Carl Folke, Måns Nilssond, Per Olssona
Abstract: The notion of ‘planetary boundaries’ is rapidly diffusing into a range of policy arenas and has clearly stimulated a discussion on the need to reform international environmental governance. This article summarizes the special section “Global Environmental Governance and Planetary Boundaries”. The articles in this section highlight several dimensions for the governance of ‘planetary boundaries’ and offer a rich picture of the Earth system governance challenges ahead. In essence, these involve exploring issues such as institutional interactions, policy integration, network governance and polycentric coordination in settings where biophysical complexity and non-linear shifts are the rule, rather than the exception.

Planetary boundaries and earth system governance: Exploring the links
Frank Biermann
Abstract: This article discusses the concept of planetary boundaries that has been advanced by a group of leading experts around Johan Rockström. I place the concept of planetary boundaries in the larger framework of the emerging research paradigm of earth system governance, welcoming it as a crucial contribution that defines the overall goals of governance. Yet I also elaborate on the political conflicts that surround the identification of planetary boundaries, which are, in the end, a social construct. I then explore the policy and governance responses that may follow from the planetary boundary approach. In the conclusion, I point to several research challenges that flow from the current state of knowledge on planetary boundaries.

Polycentric systems and interacting planetary boundaries — Emerging governance of climate change–ocean acidification–marine biodiversity
Victor Galaza,Beatrice Crona, Henrik Österblom, Per Olssona, Carl Folke
Abstract: Planetary boundaries and their interactions pose severe challenges for global environmental governance due to their inherent uncertainties and complex multi-scale dynamics. Here we explore the global governance challenge posed by planetary boundaries interactions by focusing on the role of polycentric systems and order, a theoretical field that has gained much interest in the aftermath of claims of a stagnant UN-process. In the first part we work toward a clarification of polycentric order in an international context, and develop three propositions. We then present a case study of the emergence of international polycentricity to address interacting planetary boundaries, namely the climate change, ocean acidification and loss of marine biodiversity complex. This is done through a study of the Global Partnership on Climate, Fisheries and Aquaculture (PaCFA) initiative. As the case study indicates, a range of mechanisms of polycentric order (ranging from information sharing to coordinated action and conflict resolution) operates at the international level through the interplay between individuals, international organizations and their collaboration patterns. While polycentric coordination of this type certainly holds potential, it is also vulnerable to internal tensions, unreliable external flows of funding, and negative institutional interactions.

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‘Improving Societal Outcomes of Extreme Weather in a Changing Climate: An Integrated Perspective’

Abstract: Despite hazard mitigation efforts and scientific and technological advances, extreme weather events continue to cause substantial losses. The impacts of extreme weather result from complex interactions among physical and human systems across spatial and temporal scales. This article synthesizes current interdisciplinary knowledge about extreme weather, including temperature extremes (heat and cold waves), precipitation extremes (including floods and droughts), and storms and severe weather (including tropical cyclones). We discuss hydrometeorological aspects of extreme weather; projections of changes in extremes with anthropogenic climate change; and how social vulnerability, coping, and adaptation shape the societal impacts of extreme weather. We find four critical gaps where work is needed to improve outcomes of extreme weather: (a) reducing vulnerability; (b) enhancing adaptive capacity, including decision-making flexibility; (c) improving the usability of scientific information in decision making, and (d) understanding and addressing local causes of harm through participatory, community-based efforts formulated within the larger policy context.

Full Citation: Morss, R. E. et al. (2011). Improving societal outcomes of extreme weather in a changing climate: An integrated perspective. Annual Review of Environment and Resources, 36: 1-25 (Available for download with subscription at: 


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