115: Complex landscape mosaics and the paradox of pastoral tenure with Lance Robinson

In this episode, Michael speaks with Lance Robinson, a Research Scientist studying Human Dimensions of Sustainable Resource Development at the Center for Northern Forest Ecosystem Research in Ontario, Canada. Lance has studied rangelands as social-ecological systems for many years, and has contributed to an alternative way of viewing them that departs from some of the traditional assumptions about commons and governance. In this conversation, Michael and Lance make specific reference to the design principles for community-based resource management developed by Elinor Ostrom in her famous book, Governing the Commons. Much of the conversation has to do with Ostrom’s first principle, which stipulated that communities are aided by boundaries that delineate who is and who isn’t a community member, and where the community’s resources are. Lance’s work unpacks the importance of boundaries in part through what he calls a complex landscape mosaic, which reflects the fact that in real systems, particularly in rangelands, there are many overlapping and shifting boundaries that are designed to help resource users adapt to resource scarcity, not to prevent the overuse of the commons, which is how they are usually interpreted.

This conversation builds on a previous interview with Mark Moritz on pastoralists and open property, and you should check that interview out as well if this one interests you.



Ostrom, Elinor. 1990. Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge University Press.

Schlager, Edella, and Elinor Ostrom. 1992. “Property-Rights Regimes and Natural Resources: A Conceptual Analysis.” Land Economics 68 (3): 249–62.

Robinson, Lance W., and Fikret Berkes. 2010. “Applying Resilience Thinking to Questions of Policy for Pastoralist Systems: Lessons from the Gabra of Northern Kenya.” Human Ecology 38 (3): 335–50. https://doi.org/10.1007/s10745-010-9327-1.

Robinson, Lance W. 2019. “Open Property and Complex Mosaics: Variants in Tenure Regimes across Pastoralist Social-Ecological Systems” 13 (1): 804.