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Author ORCID Identifier



Open Access Dissertation

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Degree Program

Environmental Conservation

Year Degree Awarded


Month Degree Awarded


First Advisor

Timothy O. Randhir

Second Advisor

John T. Finn

Third Advisor

Stan Stevens

Subject Categories

Natural Resources and Conservation | Natural Resources Management and Policy | Water Resource Management


Adaptive management strategies are mechanisms that help governments to overcome problems derived from the sudden change of ecosystems processes and dynamics and to maintain the provision of ecosystem services to the population. These strategies rely on multi-scale networks of governing institutions that work together for the protection of the environment and cooperate for the solution of pressing issues. Sometimes, however, two issues imperil the persistence of local institutions within these networks, (1) their rights to govern their territory and to self-organize are not recognized, and (2) the nested and polycentric systems that operate through the multi-scale network are weak or inexistent. This research studies the case of the Orinoco River Watershed to answer the questions about what are the causes and characteristics that impede the progress towards an ideal multi-scale and polycentric system in developing countries. Three scales are studied: watershed, in the interface between regional and local scales, and local scales. Findings from the analysis of the ecosystem services' spatial distribution at the watershed scale show that the Andean region is essential for the protection of strategic ecosystems throughout the watershed. Between regional and local scales, the results indicate major disparities between actors about the importance of protecting certain natural resources, also, it was also found that groups of local actors disagree about the main economic factors that drive the socio-ecological dynamics. Through the analysis of Indigenous peoples’ Life Plans, at a local scale, it was possible to identify the factors that undermine Indigenous peoples' social resilience. Loss of traditional knowledge is one of the most important aspects, followed by low coverage of basic services. The best-rated indicator was the internal organization, which helps them to maintain their traditions and cohesion among the members within their Indigenous reserve. Even though there is no single solution for addressing the issues derived from a lack of articulation and limited recognition of local institutions, the final chapter summarizes these key findings, to elaborate over what type of strategies could contribute to the improvement of multi-scale and polycentric governance of common-pool resources.