On the advantages of working together: Social Learning and knowledge integration in the management of marine areas
The interconnectedness of ecosystems and the integration of policy and society are relevant aspects of integrated management grounded in knowledge exchange practices. Such processes may also promote social learning, the joint and collaborative knowledge to tackle environmental problems. Thus, understanding knowledge exchange is an additional strategy to promote and understand social learning. This article analyzed a knowledge exchange process related to the elaboration of a proposal for the spatial delimitation of a marine protected area in Brazil, a developing country. By combining process observation and geographical information system tools, proposed areas and criteria for delimitation elaborated by different groups of stakeholders (non-scientists and scientists), separately and in an integrated discussion, were compared and used to test the hypotheses that integration under a knowledge exchange process can bring substantive changes in the outcomes of a management process, and that knowledge exchange processes can promote social learning. Results showed that the integration of different knowledge led to results that none of the groups reached in separate discussions, such as the identification of new areas, delimitation of an area of influence and new criteria for delimitation. Changes in knowledge, the framing and reframing of the processes, understating system complexity and social context were observed, which indicates that knowledge exchange promoted social learning. Additionally, the criteria used to support the delimitation proposals in the studied area can be applied to other marine protected areas in other contexts, and the methods used to guide the discussion can be adapted to other issues.