Opportunities for and barriers to anticipatory governance of two lake social-ecological systems in Germany and Canada.

Published online
06 Sep 2023
Content type
Journal article
Journal title
People and Nature

Tanguay, L. & Herzog, L. M. & Audet, R. & Beisner, B. E. & Martin, R. & Pahl-Wostl, C.
Contact email(s)

Publication language
Canada & Quebec & Germany & Lower Saxony


Climate change effects are already being felt around the globe, and governance systems need to adapt to this new reality to foster greater resilience in social-ecological systems (SES). Anticipatory governance is a concept proposed for such a purpose. However, its definition remains rather vague in the literature, as is its practical use for decision makers. In this paper, we contribute to filling these two shortcomings. First, we conducted a systematic literature review of the concept and derived the following main criteria: foresight, networked engagement, integration and feedback. Second, we use the identified criteria to analyse two social-ecological systems around lakes in Lower Saxony, Germany and in Quebec, Canada. In both cases, data were generated using a participatory approach (interviews and workshops) with local stakeholders. We examined these data, identifying opportunities and barriers to anticipatory governance. Our findings support, with empirical data for the first time, the claim in the literature that ensemble-ization-the fact that all anticipatory governance criteria must be put forward jointly and not in isolation-is a facilitator for the emergence of anticipation. Furthermore, by highlighting opportunities and barriers to anticipatory governance within two temperate lake SES cases, we illustrate how to understand a given system's limitations with respect to anticipatory governance, as well as how to engage with the concept through concrete, already existing opportunities. The proposed course of actions could help design more anticipatory governance systems to support decision-making processes that could enhance SES resilience.

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