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Governance is a central issue in land systems. As a land system can be conceptualized as the on-going interaction between an ecological and a social system, then governance is the social equivalent to the structure and function of the ecological system. Just as structure and function determine how ecological systems utilize energy to cycle material and transmit genetic information forward in time, so does governance describe how power is used within a social system to manage resources and to maintain social order. Beyond its descriptive use, governance is also central to normative discussions with the assumption that changes in governance can have a strong influence on the sustainability of a land system; moreover, governance and sustainability are interrelated, as progression towards (un)sustainability influences the nature of governance. While efforts to understand and quantify ecological structure and function has generated knowledge that can be used for predictive purposes, similarly extensive efforts in the area of governance have not been nearly as conclusive. Yet such analyses are fundamental to understanding the role of decision-making as a driver and as a response.
Mountain regions are special environments where verticality creates enormous environmental diversity and often great resource richness over short horizontal distances. Occurring in virtually all major climates of the world, mountains also display great environmental differences between regions. And as mountains have often been refuges for minorities and barriers to larger civilizations, cultural diversity between mountain regions is also great. This very resource richness and peripherality has, for all the diversity of mountain regions, nonetheless led to a recurring pattern of flux in governance arrangements, often fraught with conflict, as surrounding civilizations attempt to exploit the richness of their adjacent mountains.
Governance in mountain regions begins with the general concern of all descriptive governance studies - what are the institutions that govern behavior and lead, among other things, to the management of land resources - but then proceeds to the more specific questions of how the highly dynamic nature of the physical environment, the historical diversity of mountain cultures, and the on-going modernization of these regions affect governance arrangements. A better exploration of these questions is essential if one wishes to provide evidence-based, as opposed to dogmatic, recommendations for changes in governance that enhance the transition to sustainability.
Gregory Greenwood, The Mountain Research Initiative, Institute of Geography, University of Bern, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jayne Glass, Centre for Mountain Studies, Perth College, University of Highlands and Islands,email@example.com
Jörg Balsiger, Department of Geography and Environment, University of Geneva, firstname.lastname@example.org