The Social-Ecological Resilience of an Eastern Urban-Suburban Watershed: The Anacostia River Basin

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Mar 25, 2015
C. A. Arnold, O. O. Green, D. DeCaro, A. Chase, and J-G. Ewa



This article develops a new framework -- the institutional-social-ecological dynamics framework (ISED) -- to assess the relationships among institutional change, societal change, and ecological change in evaluating the current and likely future resilience of a small, Eastern, urban-suburban watershed: the Anacostia River watershed in DC and Maryland. A historical case study of the watershed explores the transformations of the watershed across key thresholds, including how legal, governance, and social institutions changed since European colonization and how these changes have affected the ecosystem functioning and social dynamics in the basin. Major drivers of change are identified, including the potential for climate change impact on the watershed and 3 possible futures for the watershed, ranging from hydro-ecological collapse to a greening of the watershed. Finally, watershed governance in the basin is evaluated to determine whether it is adaptive to change. The necessary features of adaptive governance in this particular basin, include watershed-focused governance, restoration and green infrastructure, land use regulation, public engagement, social justice, and monitoring and feedback loops. Law and planning play critical roles in all of these features. Whether the basin will continue to develop and improve its emerging elements of adaptive governance remains to be seen, but several key variables to watch are identified.

Read the article in the Idaho Law Review.


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