Relationships, social networks and the emergence of recovery-based river management: implications for practice and policy

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4 Citations (Scopus)


Sustainable, science-based freshwater-ecosystem management requires strong and integrated systems and policies for governance and knowledge management. Often the focus is on availability of technical information, whereas deeper knowledge development, sharing and implementation also require social networks that cross disciplinary and organisational boundaries. This research investigated emergence and development of river-rehabilitation practices based on principles of geomorphic river recovery through periods of institutional, political and policy change. Document analysis and oral testimony indicated that informal or emergent social networks, forming communities of practice, have been critical for developing, sharing and implementing river-recovery principles through these phases of change. However, social networks and the tacit knowledge held by networks and individuals are insecure and may be vulnerable to loss if investments are not made in relationships and the ‘relational resources’ that provide resilience during periods of change. We see social relationships as critical to realisation of integrative, science-based freshwater-ecosystem management and governance in the long term and across local, state, national and international scales. This must be supported by policy that recognises the value of cross-organisational connection and provides institutional stability, while offering sufficient flexibility and openness for collaborative and adaptive governance in management of freshwater ecosystems.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)481-492
Number of pages12
JournalMarine and Freshwater Research
Issue number4
Early online date2 Sep 2020
Publication statusPublished - 2021


  • communities of practice
  • geomorphology
  • governance
  • institutional change
  • river recovery
  • social capital


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