Social capital as a key determinant of perceived benefits of community-based marine protected areas
Globally, marine protected areas (MPAs) have been relatively unsuccessful in meeting biodiversity objectives. In order to be effective, they require some alteration of people's use and access to marine resources, which they will resist if they do not perceive associated benefits. Stakeholder support is crucial to ecological success of MPAs, and support is likely to depend on their capacity to adapt to and benefit from MPAs. We examined the influence of social adaptive capacity (SAC) on perceived benefits of MPAs in Siquijor, Philippines, in the Coral Triangle. This region has significant biodiversity and is home to over 120 million people, many of them dependent on marine resources for food and income. It is a hotspot for MPAs, most of which are managed under decentralized governance systems. We collected data from 540 households in 19 villages with associated MPAs. We evaluated the influence of multiple SAC variables on perceived benefits using decision trees and qualitatively analyzed this relationship with respect to types and recipients of benefits. Our models revealed the key role of social capital, particularly trust in leadership, in influencing perceptions of benefits. Further, path analysis revealed that perceptions of distributional equity were a key mechanism through which social capital affected perceived MPA benefits. Identifying approaches to building social capital and equity within communities could lead to more effective management of MPAs requiring fewer resources than other approaches such as enforcement. Future research could build understanding of the influence and defining characteristics of different types of social capital and its distribution within communities on successful outcomes of MPAs and other marine resource management approaches.