Fikret Berkes


Dr. Fikret Berkes Community Conservation ResearcherDr. Fikret Berkes, Natural Resources Institute, University of Manitoba, holds a PhD in Marine Sciences from McGill University, and works at the interface of natural and social sciences. He has devoted most of his professional life to investigating integrated social-ecological systems, and to examining the conditions under which the “tragedy of the commons” may be avoided. He is intrigued with the idea of using the complex adaptive systems approach (and resilience theory in particular) to challenge notions of linear causality and reductionistic, positivistic science. On the practical side, he is interested in community-based management, with research focusing on commons, co-management, and the ways in which societies use environmental knowledge and develop institutions dealing with sustainability. He holds a Tier I Canada Research Chair (since 2002) and the title of Distinguished Professor (since 2003).


Dr. Berkes’ primary research site for CCRN is Paraty area in Brazil where he is the co-leader of a five-year international team project on the participatory management of coastal resources. He has secondary interests in Indonesia where he has recently completed a study, and in Thailand, Chile and Mexico where he has been involved in projects. His main interest among the Canadian sites is Nova Scotia where he was a part of Coastal CURA and a SSHRC-RDI project with Dr. Charles and others.


A key issue for the CCRN is what ‘conservation’ and ‘stewardship’ means to resource-dependent communities. In our previous work, we found conservation and stewardship to be related to livelihood needs, but the meaning varied among communities and geographical areas, and even over time in a given community. Motivations for conservation and stewardship also varied: it was strongest in communities that had secure resource rights and commons institutions, and weaker elsewhere. In indigenous communities, ‘sense of place’ could be important, even in the absence of strong rights. All this implies that governance issues hold the key for effective conservation and stewardship. Strong local controls with supportive multi-level institutional arrangements (such as co-management) can lead to community-based conservation and environmental sustainability. What approaches work best to achieve this across a range of cases in different areas and different cultures? What is the role of knowledge, learning, leadership and other factors? CCRN cases will help us explore these questions.

Key Publications

  • Berkes, F. and H. Ross 2013. Community resilience: toward an integrated approach. Society and Natural Resources 26: 5-20.
  • Berkes, F., N.C. Doubleday and G.S. Cumming 2012. Aldo Leopold’s land health from a resilience point of view: Self-renewal capacity of social-ecological systems. EcoHealth 9: 278-287.
  • Berkes, F. 2012. Sacred Ecology. Third Edition. Routledge, New York.
  • Berkes, F. 2012. Implementing ecosystem-based management: evolution or revolution? Fish and Fisheries 13: 465-476.
  • Berkes, F. 2011. Restoring unity: the concept of social-ecological systems. In: World Fisheries: A Social-Ecological Analysis (R. E. Ommer, R. I. Perry, K. Cochrane and P. Cury, eds.) Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, pp. 9-28.
  • Berkes, F. 2010. Devolution and natural resources governance: trends and future. Environmental Conservation 37: 489-500.