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Ostrom is considered one of the leading scholars in the study of common pool resources (CPR). In particular, Ostrom's work emphasizes how humans interact with ecosystems to maintain long-term sustainable resource yields. Common pool resources include many forests, fisheries, oil fields, grazing lands, and irrigation systems. She conducted her field studies on the management of pasture by locals in Africa and irrigation systems management in villages of western Nepal (e.g. Dang). Ostrom's work has considered how societies have developed diverse institutional arrangements for managing natural resources and avoiding ecosystem collapse in many cases, even though some arrangements have failed to prevent resource exhaustion. Her current work emphasizes the multifaceted nature of human–ecosystem interaction and argues against any singular "panacea" for individual social-ecological system problems. ("Beyond the tragedy of the commons" Stockholm Whiteboard Seminars (right at the end of the lecture)

Ostrom identifies eight "design principles" of stable local common pool resource management:

  1. Clearly defined boundaries (effective exclusion of external un-entitled parties;
  2. Rules regarding the appropriation and provision of common resources that are adapted to local conditions;
  3. Collective-choice arrangements that allow most resource appropriators to participate in the decision-making process;
  4. Effective monitoring by monitors who are part of or accountable to the appropriators;
  5. A scale of graduated sanctions for resource appropriators who violate community rules;
  6. Mechanisms of conflict resolution that are cheap and of easy access;
  7. Self-determination of the community recognized by higher-level authorities;
  8. In the case of larger common-pool resources,organization in the form of multiple layers of nested enterprises, with small local CPRs at the base level.
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