Knowledge-driven institutional change: An empirical study on combating desertification in northern china from 1949 to 2004

Lihua Yang, Jianguo Wu

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Understanding institutional changes is crucial for environmental management. Here we investigated how institutional changes influenced the process and result of desertification control in northern China between 1949 and 2004. Our analysis was based on a case study of 21 field sites and a meta-analysis of additional 29 sites reported in the literature. Our results show that imposed knowledge-driven institutional change was often perceived as a more progressive, scientific, and rational type of institutional change by entrepreneurs, scholars, experts, and technicians, while voluntary, knowledge-driven institutional change based on indigenous knowledge and experiences of local populations was discouraged. Our findings also demonstrate that eight working rules of imposed knowledge-driven institutional change can be applied to control desertification effectively. These rules address the issues of perception of potential gains, entrepreneurs' appeals and support, coordination of multiple goals, collaboration among multiple organizations, interest distribution and conflict resolution, incremental institutional change, external intervention, and coordination among the myriad institutions involved. Imposed knowledge-driven institutional change tended to be more successful when these rules were thoroughly implemented. These findings provide an outline for implementing future institutional changes and policy making to combat desertification and other types of ecological and environmental management.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)254-266
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
StatePublished - Nov 15 2012


  • Desertification control
  • Experts
  • Institutions
  • Knowledge
  • Scholars
  • Working rules

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Environmental Engineering
  • Waste Management and Disposal
  • Management, Monitoring, Policy and Law


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