School of Earth, Environmental, and Marine Sciences Faculty Publications and Presentations

Document Type


Publication Date



Ecosystem-based management of fisheries and other transboundary natural resources require a number of organizations across jurisdictions to exchange knowledge, coordinate policy goals and engage in collaborative activities. Trust, as part of social capital, is considered a key mechanism facilitating the coordination of such inter-organizational policy networks. However, our understanding of multi-dimensional trust as a theoretical construct and an operational variable in environmental and natural resource management has remained largely untested. This paper presents an empirical assessment of trust and communication measures applied to the North American Great Lakes fisheries policy network. Using a scale-based method developed for this purpose, we quantify the prevalence of different dimensions of trust and in/formal communication in the network and their differentiated impacts on decision-making and goal consensus. Our analysis reveals that calculation-based ‘rational trust’ is important for aligning mutual goals, but relationship-based ‘affinitive trust’ is most significant for influencing decision-making. Informal communication was also found to be a strong predictor of how effectively formal communication will influence decision-making, confirming the “priming” role of informal interactions in formal inter-agency dealings. The results also show the buffering and interactive functions of these components in strengthening institutional resilience, with procedural trust undergirding the system to compensate for a lack of well-developed relationships. Overall, this study provides evidence to suggest that informal communication and multi-dimensional trust constitute a crucial element for improving collaboration and reducing conflict in the networked governance of transboundary natural resource systems.


Copyright 2018 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.

Publication Title

Global Environmental Change





To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.