The Foundation for Baltic and East European Studies

Natural Resources, Ecological Status and Politics. The Societal Environmental Order and Resource Management in Baltic Coastal Areas

Field: Statsvetenskap
Project leader: Elfar Loftsson
Starting year: 2003

The main objective of this research project is to provide new knowledge on the man-nature interrelation in coastal areas of the Baltic Sea region by use of a trans-disciplinary approach. The main driving forces of change within the socio-ecological system and their consequences are at focus. This includes: Analysis of differences in societal capacity to protect and regulate the environment; descriptions and explanations of decision-making and implementation processes; investigation of environmental status and dynamics; exploration of natural resource use patterns and the development of models; and methods for integrated coastal management (ICM). The main purpose of our study is to contribute to a sound environmental management in the Baltic region.

The methodology of subproject A
For the empirical undertakings the project require different types of data. Analyses of values and attitudes will be based on public opinion data gathered through interview surveys in 1999 and 2001 respectively in the Baltic States that has been built up at Södertörns högskola. These data are used by many researchers at Södertörns högskola and among our cooperative partners in the Baltic States. It is our intention to continue undertaking new surveys to provide up-to-date data also to researchers outside the project. Analyses related to the legal sector will in relevant parts rest on English versions of international and national law. However, the local decision-making processes are important objects of study here. This research includes studies of documents from proceedings in decision-making, preparatory and administrative bodies as well as interviews with central agents. In addition interviews with natural resource users and focus group discussions with strategically selected informants will be included as data input. These parts of the research will rely heavily on our Baltic cooperative partners.

The methodology of subproject B
The methods used include of a range of well established methods used in geographical, ecological, and natural resources research, but here used in novel combinations, in part following the framework of the global UN supported Millenium Ecosystem Assessment Project ( The main data sources will be:
Maps: recent and historical, topographic and thematic, which will be analysed using GIS
Aerial photos and satellite images (analysed with GIS, and compared with maps)
Archival material, e.g. inventories and statistics covering the biota, agriculture, fish resources climatic data, demographical statistics (including migration), statistics on trading
Historical documents such as diaries, travel journals, parish reports
Field surveys
Interviews (including oral history) and surveys

Our theoretical approach to this study is in line with some of the main features of these theories. To deepen the analysis and develop the theories further we explicitly stress the effects of physical and ecological processes on the regulative processes. This has not been attempted before. The concept of societal environmental order (SEO) expresses the idea of a coherent regulatory system of the environment. The concept includes a system of interrelated sectors of governance namely values, legal instruments and practices together with the dynamics of the ecological environment.