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Socio-ecological Networks and Resilience of Vulnerable Communities to Global Environmental Change: an Arctic-Alpine Comparison of Social Network Governance (ArcAlpNet)

How can social network analysis help in understanding resilience to global environmental changes in the isolated mountain and Arctic island communities?

Project Summary

Isolated mountain and Arctic communities and ecosystems are suggested to be some of the most sensitive to climate change, while historically suffering from economic, cultural and political neglect. It is hypothesized that the peripherality of these communities makes them particularly vulnerable since their adaptive capacity to cope with the rapid changes is limited. In other words, in peripheral areas, low adaptive capacity translates into weak resilience to climate change.

The main hypothesis is that the principal barriers to resilience building are weak social ties and low participation and communication. This hypothesis will be tested by identifying key socio-cultural, relational and behavioural factors that increase or inhibit adaptation and resilience in the two case study regions, the Norwegian Arctic Island of Svalbard and the Surselva- Andermatt Region in Switzerland. The focus will be on context-specific characteristics of communities’ adaptive capacity and the link to local context-specific characteristics within the existing local social networks and their embeddedness within the broader political and natural environment. Practical outcomes will include interactions with policymakers, leading to specific recommendations for strengthening network governance for adaptive capacity. Communication with wider, non-scientific audiences will engage local people as well.

Academic Output

Working Paper

ArcAlpNet: Resilience of social networks to climate change (both in English and German)

The ArcAlpNet-project is a transdisciplinary research project running from 2011 to 2013, and financed by the Swiss Network of International Studies. It deals with social networks and resilience of vulnerable communities to global environmental change in the Swiss Alps and the Norwegian Arctic. The project identifies social network patterns together with key socio-cultural, relational and behavioural factors that increase or inhibit adaptation and resilience in the Norwegian community of Longyearbyen, and the Swiss Surselva-Andermatt Region comprising the communities Andermatt, Sedrun and Disentis.

Executive Summary

The ArcAlpNet-project deals with social networks and resilience of vulnerable communities to global environmental change in the Swiss Alps and the Norwegian Arctic. The project identifies social network patterns together with key socio-cultural, relational and behavioural factors that increase or inhibit adaptation and resilience in the Norwegian community of Longyearbyen, and the Swiss Surselva-Andermatt Region comprising the communities Andermatt, Sedrun and Disentis. The results of this transdisciplinary project provide insights into the barriers and mechanisms supporting or preventing adaptive capacity to climate change from a governance angle. In Longyearbyen, high population turnover and more compartmentalization of the community into sub-groups enables innovation through the influx and place-specific application of diverse new ideas. This form of resilience comes at a cost of less coordinated planning, and the potential for short-term visions is at odds with a longterm ecologically sustainable economy. In Surselva, a strong sense of place and cultural identity coupled with an efficient, centralized communication structure empowers collective action with long-term vision, coming at a cost of potential ‘groupthink’ with limited infusion of new ideas.

Research Team

Tobias Luthe
Coordinator
Fachhochschule Ostschweiz

Cecilia Liveriero Lavelli
Co-Coordinator
Université de Genève

Ilan Kelman
Principal Member
Universitetet i Oslo

Marc Tischhauser
Associated Member

Yvette Evers
Principal Member
Université de Genève

Marina Martin Curran
Principal Member
Université de Genève

Status

completed

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