Common pool resources comprise about 65 percent of the Earth’s surface and vast areas of the ocean. Although there are examples of successful governance of these resources, the conditions and mechanisms behind their development remain unclear. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology have developed a simulation model to examine the emergence, stability and temporal dynamics of collective property rights. Their study shows that when there are resource conflicts between groups, the establishment and enforcement of ‘access rights’ becomes a prerequisite for developing sustainable ‘use rights’. These access rights may enable a special type of evolution called ‘cultural group selection’ that facilitates the evolution of sustainable use rights to individuals despite their costs.

Community-based natural resource management has been dominated for decades by Nobel laureate Eleanor Ostrom’s design principles. These principles provide guidelines for improving the governance of resource systems, from small-scale forest management groups to global undertakings such as the high seas. Four of these principles, (1) boundaries that govern access, (2) rules that fit local contexts, (3) community determination of regulations, and (4) monitoring and enforcement, are successful worldwide. are almost universally used in governing bodies. Simply put, ‘manage your resources and keep outsiders out.’

However, the historical origins of such institutions are often obscured by records and memories, thereby obscuring the process of how such governance arises. A team of researchers based at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology shed light on the cultural emergence, persistence, and dissolution of collective property rights designed to govern natural resources. The paper’s evolutionary focus shifts the debate around natural resource governance from questions such as ‘How important are each design principle to successful resource governance?’ How, where, when and why can such principles emerge?

The team’s modeling framework illustrates three key features of the system: First, collective property rights most likely develop sequentially — some puzzle pieces must be in place before others develop. Groups must secure borders and then focus on successful internal regulation. Second, support for both access and harvesting regulatory bodies is subject to cyclical trends of waxing and waning support. Third, learning from ‘outgroups’ is critical to identifying sustainable practices and improving regulatory policies — a group in isolation or looking only at its own performance is often doomed.

The study is based on ethnographic work.

The research tests the theory in the team’s longitudinal field site on the Zanzibar Peninsula (Tanzania). Working with communities trying to conserve their mangrove forests — which protect coastlines from sea-level rise and provide valuable natural resources — researchers have found that grouping over resources Groups with conflict (eg, neighboring communities over clear-cut mangroves) and lack of sufficient boundaries struggle to create successful policies for internal management and harvesting of their already threatened resources. Focus on. Without socially enforced boundaries, group conflict over resources undermines internal governance. These dynamics are very different from other evolutionary systems where intergroup conflict drives cooperative responses — the domestic and sequential nature of the evolution of natural resource management systems accounts for the difference.

“This work provides a formal evolutionary framework for understanding the emergence of collective property rights and Ostrom’s design principles,” says first author Jeffrey Andrews. “Making specific predictions about when such institutions might emerge can be easily adapted by policy planners to better understand resource management, from small-scale community organizations to fisheries. extends to the management of global operations such as Gary.”