Grasslands governance

A social network approach for assessing sustainability of traditionally managed grasslands in a policy-driven management context


Project number: PN-III-P4-ID-PCE-2016-0483

Contract number: 19/2017

Funding body: Executive Agency for Higher Education, Research, Development and Innovation Funding (UEFISCDI)

Budget: 849.159 RON

Period: 2017-2019

Research team

Laurentiu Rozylowicz, principal investigator

Viorel D. Popescu, principal investigator

Hartel Tibor, principal investigator

Andreea Nita, postdoctoral researcher

Cristiana Maria Ciocanea, postdoctoral researcher

Steluta Manolache, PhD student

Iulia Miu, PhD student


Traditionally managed grasslands are vital arenas for social-ecological sustainability because their significant coverage and potential to integrate food production with biodiversity conservation. However, the new Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) simplify the management of grasslands, change traditional connections and disrupt traditional land use, leading to rapid degradation of these landscapes. Network governance allows the analysis of informal and formal arrangements where independent people or organisation work together for a common goal, such as management of grasslands. Our project centered on social network analysis, will explore novel approaches for investigating changes in landscape management by contrasting two landscapes (Iron Gates Natural Park and Dobrogea, Romania) over time (during communist period, transition period and EU membership). The main goal is to better understand the evolution of community networks dealing with management of grasslands in the context of changes induced by the EU CAP. Using network governance and social networks methods, we will identify actors of grasslands’ governance, actors with leadership roles, analyse the performance of landscape governance in a policy-driven management context, and evaluate the perception of CAP measures influencing traditionally managed grasslands. The results will enable us to explore barriers and opportunities for successful governance by taking into account influences of typical practices regarding landscape governance and performance, and to understand how formal policy networks influence informal social networks. We hypothesise differences between the regions, especially related to network formation, leadership structure, evolution under CAP influence and resilience to degradation. The results will allow to rethink the landscape policies leading to planning and managing by taking into account the past experiences, traditions, and public attitudes.

Aim and objectives

The goal of the project is to better understand suitability of community networks for maintaining grasslands sustainability in the context of changes induced by the EU Common Agricultural Policy for rural development, by exploring novel approaches for investigation of network structures in traditionally managed landscapes. Using Iron Gates Natural Park and Dobrogea (Romania) as case studies, the specific project’s objectives are: (1) to identify actors of grasslands’ governance (i.e., organisations, local people) and analyse management networks using social network metrics; (2) to identify actors or groups of actors with leadership roles, mainly those promoting sustainability of traditionally managed grasslands in a EU policy-driven management context (e.g., pioneer, sponsor, networker, steward, facilitator of a network); (3) to explore barriers to, and options for successful governance in traditionally managed grasslands in the context of CAP measures-driven management; (4) to understand how formal policy networks influence informal social networks using grasslands as case studies; and (5) to promote the use of social network analysis for studying land-use management practices in Romania and worldwide.


WP1 – Data collection for analysing management policies and grasslands governance networks

Deliverables: Network data – grasslands governance networks, actors’ covariates (3 time periods × 2 regions); Database with perception of governance performance in studied communities; Report and database on ecological status of analysed grasslands.

WP2 – Grasslands landscape governance at community and landscape scale

Deliverables: Report on main actors and management structures in the 2 study areas; Report on the difference between management regimes in two areas; Report on centrality and power of actors; Report on multilevel network analysis.

WP3 – Analysing the performance of landscape governance in a policy-driven management context

Deliverables: Analysis of performance of networks at community and landscape levels; Identification of best practice case studies from social and ecological points of view; Characterisation of best practice studies using social network theory.

WP4 – Analysing the perception of Common Agricultural Policy measures influencing traditionally managed grasslands

Deliverables: Report on perception of CAP measures influencing traditionally managed networks; Report of effectiveness of social network for assessment of landscape governance (pro and cons, future research needs).

WP5 – Dissemination of results, policies guidance, and project management

Deliverables: 4 articles in international journals, 2 articles in peer-reviewed Romanian journals; 6 presentations at international conferences; 2 presentations at Romanian conferences, Workshop entitled “Social network analysis and grasslands landscape governance”.



Third European Conference on Social Networks – EUSN 2017, Mainz, Germany, 26-29 September 2017. Oral presentation: “ Evaluating and predicting the structure of Natura 2000 sites management through Ego Network Analysis”. Nita A, Rozylowicz L, Manolache S, Ciocanea C.M.

Ecology Across Borders: Joint Annual Meeting 2017, Ghent ICC, Ghent, Belgium, December 11 – 14 2017. Poster presentation: “ Achieving sustainability of traditionally managed grasslands in a policy-driven management context through a social network approach”. Nita A, Rozylowicz L, Manolache S, Miu I, Hartel, T.

Articles/Book Chapters

Nita A., Ciocanea C.M., Manolache S., Rozylowicz, L. (2017). A network approach for understanding opportunities and barriers to effective public participation in protected areas management. Social Network Analysis and Mining Journal. Under review

Nita A., Manolache S., Ciocanea C.M., Rozylowicz, L. (2017).  Real-world application of ego-network analysis to evaluate environmental management structures. Social Network Analysis Lecture Notes Series by Springer. Submitted


Interim report 2017 (pdf file in Romanian)