Institutional misfit and environmental change: A systems approach to address ocean acidification

Journal Article

Abstract: Emerging environmental threats often lack sufficient governance to address the full extent of the problem. An example is ocean acidificationwhich is a growing concern in fishing and aquaculture economiesworldwide, but has remained a footnote in environmental policy at all governance levels. However, existing legal jurisdictions do account for some aspects of the system relating to ocean acidification and these may be leveraged to support adapting to and mitigating ocean acidification. We refine and apply a methodological framework that helps objectively evaluate governance, froma social-ecological systems perspective.We assess how well a set of extant US institutions fits with the social-ecological interactions pertinent to ocean acidification. The assessment points to measured legal gaps, for which we evaluate the government authorities most appropriate to help fill these gaps. The analysis is conducted on United State federal statutes and regulations. Results show quantitative improvement of institutional fit over time (2006 to 2013), but a substantial number of measured legal gaps persist especially around acknowledging local sources of acidification and adaptation strategies to dealwith or avoid impacts.
We demonstrate the utility of this framework to evaluate the governance surrounding any emerging environmental threat as a first step to guiding the development of jurisdictionally realistic solutions.

Citation: Ekstrom, J. A., and B. I. Crona. 2017. Institutional misfit and environmental change: A systems approach to address ocean acidification. Science of The Total Environment 576:599–608

Keywords: Governance, Institutional fit, Social-ecological system, Human-environmental system, Institutional interplay