Multiple use in Savanna systems

Leader: Dr Tim Lynam, CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems, Townsville

Full title: Assessing options for multiple use of savanna regions
Project 3.3.6

Introduction | Objectives | Rationale | Approach and Methods | Outcomes | Outputs | More information |


In a world characterised by change and uncertainty one of the most useful contributions that science can make is through expanding the set of options people have available to them for achieving their goals or aspirations. A key factor that constrains the sets of options available to people is the set of rules that define “what actions (or outcomes) are required, prohibited, or permitted [1] .” The multiple use in savanna regions project will use case studies in Queensland and the Northern Territories to examine the utility of the Institutional Analysis and Development (IAD) framework as a simple tool to guide policy analysts and decision makers through a process of designing, testing and evaluating rules designed to achieve social objectives. The project will use a mix of literature reviews, stakeholder consultation, field data collection, modelling and experimentation. The project will deliver:

  • detailed descriptions of the key components of a policy situation (data on the rules governing resource use, the participants, positions, actions, potential outcomes, information and payoffs associated with a set of rules as well as the attributes of the bio-physical and social world in which the rules are implemented) for two savanna case studies;
  • a clear assessment of the potential utility of the IAD framework as a tool for policy planning and analysis and guidelines for its use.

[1] Ostrom E., R. Gardner and J. Walker, 1994. Rules, games and common-pool resources. University of Michigan Press, Anne Arbor, USA.


The project has the following objectives:

  1. Implement one additional savanna case study to explore the utility of the IAD framework for institutional analysis;
  2. Identify the strengths and weaknesses of the IAD framework as a tool for policy use in the savanna regions of northern Australia;
  3. Develop and disseminate a simple protocol for the implementation of the IAD framework (or similar framework if changes are required) in the context of savanna regions and multiple use of resources.
  4. Complete simple recommendations for the tourism industry from the Savanna Way research.


The project will produce tools and guidelines for the use of these tools (the IAD framework, multi-agent simulation models, future scenarios and economic experimentation tools) that will contribute to identifying “policy and management options for regional planning and development.”

We recognise that with any set of resources there are a number of possible uses and a number of possible users. Alongside such factors as knowledge, infrastructure, finance and natural capital, rules constrain the set of uses and the potential users. This project will use a simple framework (the IAD framework) to guide the analysis of how current rules and pending changes in these rules (as defined by local stakeholders) constrain who can use resources and how these resource can be used. The resulting empirically tested framework will provide a simple to use mechanism that will assist in the evaluation and testing of strategies for sustainable and socially desirable development and use of resource systems.

The project has taken water as the resource of primary focus. This is a strategic decision of significant importance. One of the principle determinants of savanna structure and function is water. As importantly water is a fundamental determinant of the spatial and temporal patterns of savanna landscape and resource use. Water therefore controls (to a large extent) the structure, function and use of savannas[1]. Through managing water we manage the savannas. Water is also a very difficult resource to manage; its location, amount and ownership are often unclear or uncertain. Rules that define the multiple use of water resources [2] are therefore the most difficult case. If we can successfully contribute a framework or tool for use with designing rules of use for water that lead to socially desirable outcomes then we can feel confident that it would work for most other resource management situations.

With the departure of Romy Greiner we have had to restructure the project team. This has provided a great opportunity to enhance the capacity of people living in the savannas. Anna Straton of CSIRO in Darwin, in collaboration with Sue Jackson will lead the one case study (Daly River). The project will bring in additional expertise to strengthen her analysis as well as to provide the Darwin team and their stakeholders with access to cutting edge tools and approaches so that their analytical options are expanded. We expect therefore to significantly contribute to the development of productive and capable people working in the savannas – both researchers and decision makers.

[1] We acknowledge the importance and interplay with other factors such as fire, soil nutrients and human use.
[2] We see multiple use as being the interaction among multiple users and multiple uses.

Approach and Methods

The general approach being adopted in the project is simple and the specific methods are all standard. We have identified a second case study additional to the Etheridge Shire in Queensland case study that was completed in 2004. This is the Daly River in NT. In each case specific water use or allocation problems have been identified and the rules pertaining to these have been established. Local stakeholders in the Daly River case have been engaged and have agreed to participate. Following a period of review of the pertinent formal rule sets (legislation, management plans), which make up the formal “ rules in use ” of the IAD framework, as well as stakeholder perceptions of these the project teams will identify the components of the system in relation to the IAD framework, what Ostrom calls the action arena . These are as follows:

  • The biophysical attributes of the system and the attributes of the community or social system in which the rules are imposed.
  • The participants in the situation. Who are the key stakeholders or actors?
  • The positions of the participants in the process. Positions align participants with authorised sets of actions. For example a Community Reference Group member would have a set of actions associated with that position such as reviewing and potentially rejecting a development plan.
  • The actions that participants can take. For example sell their water allocation. These are the actions that the set of rules allow.
  • Potential outcomes . In this component the outcomes that participants can potentially achieve through their actions are defined.
  • Transformation functions. This terminology is unclear but essentially refers to the functions that link outcomes to actions. For example the benefit and cost functions for a given action set.
  • Information . The set of information available to a participant at a stage in the process.
  • Payoffs. The methods that assign costs and benefits for each action. They are the costs and benefits associated with each outcome.

The actors in the IAD process are analysed in detail and through the project we would identify their preferences over outcomes as well as their ability to process information, the criteria they use to make decisions and the resources each has to engage in the process and or achieve outcomes.

Each of these analyses will be conducted in a participatory mode with the actors involved in the rule change or action situation. Rigorous use of standard social science methods (focus group interviews, structured and semi-structured interviews) will be used in combination with literature reviews and expert informant interviews. All procedures for data collection will be reviewed by the CSIRO team prior to their being used. The participatory approach adopted is an important part of the projects communication and engagement strategy. The methods and process actively engage the key stakeholders in each case study thus simultaneously using their real world roles and experience whilst having them experience the research process.

Having collected this baseline information on the policy situation the research team will work with the stakeholders to explore how participants, positions, actions, outcomes, transformation functions, information or payoffs would change with proposed changes in the formal rule set. Formal rule set changes will be elicited from the pertinent stakeholders (decision makers). These explorations will be conducted in three different ways. The first will incorporate the same suite of social science methods used to develop the baseline data sets (interviews etc.). The second approach will be through the use of an experimental economics process lead by John Ward of CSIRO’s Policy and Economic Research Unit (PERU). In this laboratory experimental system a computer based experimental “game” is set up which is then used with the key stakeholders in the system to elicit their responses to formal rule changes. The third approach will use a multi-agent computer simulation approach to predicting changes in the rule change situation (i.e. changes in participants, positions, actions etc.). By using these three methods the team will be able to triangulate or cross check the results and hence test the robustness of the elicited responses.

Finally the team will synthesise their findings in regards to a) the data describing the components of the system and b) the implementation of the IAD framework and present these as a report, scientific paper and a simple set of guidelines for using the IAD framework.

Throughout the project the existing stakeholder advisory group will be used to guide the research and keep it relevant to key stakeholders.


Policy analysis is complex and the outcomes of any policy highly uncertain. Therefore to efficiently bring about socially desirable changes in management or human behaviour, policies and policy instruments need to be carefully crafted to achieve their ends. There is little room for adaptive testing of policies in the real world. The major contribution of this project will therefore be to test, and provide to decision makers, a reliable framework for designing and thereafter testing policies or policy instruments in relation to natural resource management or use. By effectively using the framework policy makers can explore the implications of policies or policy instruments before they are enacted.

In addition the project will generate a set of baseline data for each of two key policy cases in addition to the existing case.


  1. Empirically tested framework for policy or policy instrument analysis (based on the IAD framework) with guidelines for use in the Australian context.
  2. Case study data sets that capture the essential elements of the two case studies.
  3. Final report in which the process and results of the use of the framework as well as the exploration of future changes in rule sets are simply and clearly described.
  4. A scientific paper on the application of the framework in Australia.
  5. Simple summary of the recommendations and methods identified and used in the Savanna Way component of the project.


Dr Alex Herr
Research Scientist
CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems
Tel: 07 4753 8510

Fax: 07 4753 8650

Davies Laboratory PMB

Dr Kamaljit Kaur
Post Doc Fellow
School of Business
Tel: 07 4781 4260

Fax: 07 4781 4019

James Cook University

Dr Tim Lynam
Research Leader, Resource Futures Program
CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems
Tel: 07 4753 8603

Fax: 07 4753 8650

PMB Aitkenvale, Davies Laboratory

A/Prof Richard Monypenny
Head of Discipline, Economics Program
Tel: 07 4781 4869

James Cook University

Dr Alex Smajgl
Research Scientist
CSIRO Sustainable Ecosystems
Tel: 07 4753 8615

Fax: 07 4753 8650

Davies Laboratory, PMB PO

A/Prof Owen Stanley
School of Business
Tel: 07 4781 5393

Fax: 07 4781 4019

James Cook University

Dr Karen Vella