Social-ecological trends: managing the vulnerability of coastal fishing communities
The loss of biodiversity, including the collapse of fish stocks, affects the vulnerability of social-ecological systems (SESs) and threatens local livelihoods. Incorporating community-centered indicators and SES drivers and exposures of change into coastal management can help anticipate and mitigate human and/or coastal vulnerability. We have proposed a new index to measure the social-ecological vulnerability of coastal fishing communities (Index of Coastal Vulnerability [ICV]) based on species, ecosystem, and social indicators. The ICV varies from 0 (no vulnerability) to 1 (very high vulnerability) and is composed of 3 components: species vulnerability, i.e., fish biological traits; ecosystem vulnerability, i.e., environmental indicators of ecosystem health; and adaptive capacity, i.e., human ability to cope with changes. We tested the ICV of Brazil’s 17 coastal states. The average ICV for the Brazilian coast was 0.77, and variation was low among states. More than half of the coastal states revealed very high vulnerability (> 0.8). The ecosystem vulnerability values were worse than the adaptive capacity and species vulnerability values, and the North and Northeast regions were revealed to be vulnerable hot spots. Additionally, we investigated how the ICV related to specific anthropogenic risks, i.e., fish landing richness, fishery instability, market, coastal extension, and coastal population, and found that states with fewer species landings and higher coastal populations presented higher ICVs. At a time when human impacts are overtaking natural processes, understanding how these impacts lead to coastal vulnerability can help improve conservation policies. For this case study, we suggest both fisheries management measures and restoration of sensitive habitats to protect species and decrease vulnerability. The integrated evaluation developed here could be used as a baseline for coastal monitoring and conservation planning and be applied to coastal regions in which governments evaluate both social and biological aspects.