The challenge of establishing adaptive management systems is a widely discussed topic in the literature on natural resource management. Adaptive management essentially focuses on achieving a governance process that is both sensitive to and has the capacity to continuously react to changes within the ecosystem being managed. The adoption of a network approach that perceives governance structures as social networks, searching for the kind of network features promoting this important feature, has been requested by researchers in the field. In particular, the possibilities associated with the application of a formal network approach, using the tools and concepts of social network analysis (SNA), have been identified as having significant potential for advancing this branch of research. This paper aims to address the relation between network structure and adaptability using an empirical approach. With the point of departure in a previously generated theoretical framework as well as related hypotheses, this paper presents a case study of a governance process within a fish management area in Sweden. The hypotheses state that, although higher levels of network density and centralisation promote the rule-forming process, the level of network heterogeneity is important for the existence and spread of ecological knowledge among the actors involved. According to the empirical results, restricted by the single-case study design, this assumption is still a well-working hypothesis. However, in order to advance our knowledge concerning these issues and test the validity of the hypotheses, more empirical work using a similar approach in multiple case study designs is needed.
Adaptive management; co-management; governance; social networks; social network analysis (SNA)