Final stakeholder workshop at Lake Dümmer. All participants have given consent for their picture to be used.
Credit: Pia Müller

By Louis Tanguay, Laura Herzog, René Audet, Beatrix Beisner, Romina Martin, and Claudia Pahl-Wostl.

This Plain Language Summary is published ahead of the article discussed; please check back for a link to the full paper.

Given the many uncertainties brought about by climate change, anticipating the future of lakes, their surroundings, and human interaction with them can prove both useful and challenging over the next several decades. While this is no simple task, it is possible to find opportunities for and barriers to anticipation in institutions that manage natural resources such as lakes.

This is what we intended to do in two case studies based in Lower Saxony, Germany, and in Quebec, Canada. We interviewed around 20 stakeholders in each region and invited a total of 30 to 40 stakeholders to join a series of workshops. All stakeholders were engaged in one way or another in the management or use of a focal lake of regional relevance.

Using exercises to help participants express their local knowledge concerning current contexts and future possibilities and uncertainties for the lakes, we co-developed an understanding of the dynamics between natural elements and social realities at each lake. This allowed us to analyze how certain dynamics, processes or mindsets can help sustain or hamper the emergence of anticipation for natural resource management and planning.

We based our analysis on four criteria derived from the literature, arguing that these criteria are the main constituents for anticipation to emerge, and we used them as a basis to propose recommendations for decision-makers. These criteria relate to:

  1. The development of visioning exercises;
  2. Inviting relevant actors into planning and decision processes;
  3. Integrating different types of knowledge, and;
  4. Learning from management measures and actions undertaken.

We also highlight the fact that those four criteria should work as an ensemble as much as possible to be fully beneficial to local stakeholders. In doing so, we raise awareness to the importance of anticipation when governing a system faced with increasing uncertainties, and we conclude by proposing a course of action for engaging in anticipatory practices.