Understanding the spatial diversity of social uses, dynamics, and conflicts in marine spatial planning
Marine coastal environments are often socially complex public areas that need equitable spatial planning approaches. Understanding the extent of extractive and non-extractive uses and the social dynamics that may be driving patterns of use is essential if the spatial plan is to support the social resilience of a marine area. In this study, a combination of fuzzy-set multi-criteria GIS modelling and negative tie social network analysis were used to explore social uses and conflicts based on sketch-mapping interviews with five key stakeholder groups (ecotourism, Aboriginal Traditional Owners, commercial and recreational fishing, and water sports) within a Marine Protected Area (MPA). Most of the areas within the MPA were regularly used by the stakeholders, with non-extractive and extractive stakeholders occupying similar spatial extents, with each stakeholder group having a different pattern of use. However, stakeholder groups had different levels of perceived priority to access these areas and support of the current spatial management plan, especially within the ecotourism and Aboriginal Traditional Owner groups. The investigation of social conflicts in shaping patterns of use revealed that most stakeholder conflicts do not necessarily occur in areas of overlaps, but generally in areas of high biodiversity and easy access through marine infrastructure. Ecotourism groups had the most perceived conflicts over marine space, which shaped their use towards certain no-take zones that protected high biodiversity and would also provide protection from other conflicting stakeholder uses (e.g., boating, fishing). Overall, the method outlined in this paper presents a way for marine spatial management to consider not only the extent and diversity of social uses in a marine environment but also the spatial-social dynamics that may determine the success of the spatial plan in supporting long-term social resilience.