Towards collective action in ecosystem services governance:The recognition of social interdependencies in three collective agri-environmental initiatives in Quebec

Zaga-Mendez, Alejandra and Bissonnette, Jean-Francois and Kolinjivadi, Vijay and Cleaver, Frances and Dupras, Jerome (2021) Towards collective action in ecosystem services governance:The recognition of social interdependencies in three collective agri-environmental initiatives in Quebec. Ecosystem Services, 51. ISSN 2212-0416

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Governing ecosystem services entails the recognition of mutual and interdependent relations between different actors (i.e. beneficiaries, providers and intermediaries) in relation to each other and the living world. Appreciating these social interdependencies requires understanding ecosystem services as commons, generated at the entanglement of social and biophysical relationships and requiring collective action mechanisms. The objective of this article is to study the processes by which social interdependencies are recognized, and how these processes shape the emergence of collective action in three agri-environmental initiatives in Quebec (Canada). These concern a local program of payment for ecosystem service, an integrated watershed management project, and a political coordination process among 16 rural municipalities. Through a qualitative analysis of observations, semi-structured interviews, and field visits with relevant stakeholders, this study outlines the processes involved in the recognition of social interdependencies beyond already established actions, and sometimes at the margins of the formalized agri-environmental initiative. While the three examples do not appear to be collective actions yet, they result in an increase in social capital, which serves as a crucial intermediary step towards achieving cooperation. Our results show that this emergent cooperation is based on constant (re)negotiation and adaptation, whereby intermediaries (e.g. agronomists, environmental coordinators, NGOs) play a key role by reinforcing existing social networks or opening opportunities for new social linkages. Finally, our results show that the social links and the institutions that encourage the collective recognition of social interdependencies are continuously co-constructed by actors and influenced by existing power asymmetries through processes of institutional bricolage.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Ecosystem Services
Additional Information:
This is the author’s version of a work that was accepted for publication in Ecosystem Services. Changes resulting from the publishing process, such as peer review, editing, corrections, structural formatting, and other quality control mechanisms may not be reflected in this document. Changes may have been made to this work since it was submitted for publication. A definitive version was subsequently published in Ecosystem Services, 51, 2021 DOI: 10.1016/j.ecoser.2021.101357
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12 Oct 2021 16:15
Last Modified:
24 Sep 2022 00:44