Refining the Robustness of Social-Ecological Systems Framework for comparative analysis of coastal system adaptation to global change

John M. Anderies, Olivier Barreteau, Ute Brady

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Scopus citations


There are numerous frameworks for studying the governance of shared resources that have been discussed extensively in the literature. Although these frameworks have been applied to multiple case studies, these applications are often idiosyncratic, subject to the interpretation of the researcher, and raise concerns regarding the operational use of frameworks for case-study comparisons. As a result, insights from these studies have not lived up to the aspirations of the frameworks to generate generalizable knowledge. Here, based on several case studies and our experience using various frameworks for analyzing social-ecological systems, we undertake the task of providing a mechanism to systematically qualify interactions among ecological, social, institutional, and built infrastructure systems that impact the governance of shared resources. Specifically, we generate a series of archetypal social-ecological systems and extract from them a verb list to represent key interactions in the Robustness of Coupled Infrastructure Systems Framework. We then extend and refine the list based on three case studies of coastal social-ecological systems. We categorize these verbs and use them to demonstrate governance patterns across the case studies. We find that governance entities predominantly seek control over paths of change directed at lower governance levels rather than acting at their own level. Governance entities shed responsibility to lower governance levels without providing necessary resources. Finally, we find high potential for the cancelation of efforts due to lack of coordination among governance entities. The set of system archetypes and associated verb list is a first step in laying the foundation for a general typology of and a standardized protocol for representing the dynamics of CIS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1891-1908
Number of pages18
JournalRegional Environmental Change
Issue number7
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019


  • Climate adaptation
  • Coastal settlements
  • Comparative analysis
  • Coupled infrastructure systems
  • Frameworks
  • Robustness

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Global and Planetary Change


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