Managing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) is about managing human behaviours, but decision-making processes have traditionally focussed on ecological aspects, treating social aspects as secondary. It is now becoming more evident that an equal focus on the ecological and social aspects is required. Without the collection of information about social aspect such as impacts and sharing this as well as ecological information with communities, MPAs are at higher risk of opposition and social acceptability problems. This paper explores the development of a wellbeing framework to understand the social aspects, including the impacts of MPAs on the wellbeing of local communities. This research investigates two case study MPAs: Cape Byron and Port Stephens-Great Lakes Marine Parks in New South Wales, Australia. The MPAs are multiple-use and were implemented in 2006 and 2007, respectively. The research began with a review of the literature, followed by fieldwork, including semi-structured qualitative interviews with community members. Through thematic coding of the interview transcripts in light of the literature on assessing the social impacts of MPAs, a community wellbeing framework of domains and associated attributes was developed to investigate social impacts. Our analysis shows; first, local perspectives are crucial to understanding social impacts. Second, understanding social impacts gives insight into the nature of trade-offs that occur in decision-making regarding MPAs. Third, the intangible social impacts experienced by local communities are just as significant as the tangible ones for understanding how MPAs operate. Fourth, governance impacts have been the most influential factor affecting the social acceptability of the case study parks. We argue that failure to address negative social impacts can undermine the legitimacy of MPAs. We propose that the framework will support policymakers to work towards more effective, equitable and socially sustainable MPAs by employing much-needed monitoring of human dimensions of conservation interventions at the community level to shape adaptive management.
Social-Ecological Systems and Human Wellbeing
Illegal, unregulated, and unreported (IUU) fishing is a major contributor to global overfishing, threatening food security, maritime livelihoods, and fisheries sustainability. An emerging narrative in the literature posits that IUU fishing is associated with additional organized criminal activities, such as drug trafficking, human trafficking, slavery, and arms smuggling. We explored this narrative through a systematic literature review to identify the empirical evidence of the association between illegal fisheries activities and organized crimes. Here we show that there is minimal evidence of organized crimes being linked to IUU fishing. Due to the covert nature of both organized crime and IUU fishing, we supplemented the literature review with analysis of media reports on illegal fishing from 2015 to 2019. We reviewed more than 330 individual media reports from 21 countries. From this database, < 2% reported crimes associated with illegal fishing. The predominantly associated crime mentioned were violations of worker's rights, forced labor and/or modern slavery. We resolve the contradiction between the common narrative that fisheries and other crimes are linked by presenting three distinct business models for maritime criminal activities. These models explain why certain crimes such as forced labor are associated with illegal fishing, while other crimes such as trafficking or smuggling are less likely to be linked to fishing activities. By disentangling these crimes from one another we can better focus on solutions to reduce illegal behavior on the sea, protect those vulnerable to fisheries exploitation, and enhance livelihoods and social well-being.
We report archaeological findings from a significant new cave site on Alor Island, Indonesia, with an in situ basal date of 40,208–38,454 cal BP. Twenty thousand years older than the earliest Pleistocene site previously known from this island, Makpan retains dense midden deposits of marine shell, fish bone, urchin and crab remains, but few terrestrial species; demonstrating that protein requirements over this time were met almost exclusively from the sea. The dates for initial occupation at Makpan indicate that once Homo sapiens moved into southern Wallacea, settlement of the larger islands in the archipelago occurred rapidly. However, the Makpan sequence also suggests that the use of the cave following initial human arrival was sporadic prior to the terminal Pleistocene about 14,000 years ago, when occupation became intensive, culminating in the formation of a midden. Like the coastal sites on the larger neighbouring island of Timor, the Makpan assemblage shows that maritime technology in the Pleistocene was highly developed in this region. The Makpan assemblage also contains a range of distinctive personal ornaments made on Nautilus shell, which are shared with sites located on Timor and Kisar supporting connectivity between islands from at least the terminal Pleistocene. Makpan’s early inhabitants responded to sea-level change by altering the way they used both the site and local resources. Marine food exploitation shows an initial emphasis on sea-urchins, followed by a subsistence switch to molluscs, barnacles, and fish in the dense middle part of the sequence, with crabs well represented in the later occupation. This new record provides further insights into early modern human movements and patterns of occupation between the islands of eastern Nusa Tenggara from ca. 40 ka.
There is a growing emphasis on formally recognizing the connection to the marine environment of Indigenous peoples and the traditional ecological knowledge (TEK) these strong connections cultivate. The potential for TEK to significantly enrich the scientific comprehension of the marine environment, whilst also celebrating the rich bio-cultural knowledge in its own right, is indisputable. Here, we present a scientifically robust and culturally appropriate participatory mapping methodology for the marine environment which can effectively achieve genuine cross-cultural ecological knowledge transfer between scientists and Indigenous Peoples. Through a case study working with the Anindilyakwa people of the Groote Eylandt Archipelago, we mapped the TEK of benthic habitats off Australia’s poorly surveyed northern coast. Representatives from 14 Anindilyakwa clan groups participated in the marine mapping (n = 53), resulting in 22 individual maps. Eleven broad-scale habitat classifications, predominately in the intertidal and nearshore marine environment, were described in both Anindilyakwa and English. The information gathered was then used to develop benthic habitat maps covering a combined area of ∼1800 km2 and was assessed for accuracy against in situ observations. We found that despite the difficulties in working across two different world views, through the application of this carefully refined methodology, scientists can effectively document the rich TEK of the marine environment in a manner suitable for conservation and management planning while also supporting the prioritization of Indigenous values within the decision-making process.
The human footprint on earth is now so great that we must become environmental stewards. To encourage stewardship and achieve better conservation outcomes, research is needed to connect practice with sound theory, and to empirically measure stewardship so we can identify its predictors and motivators.
In this study, we use mixed methods to develop a new quantitative indicator for local environmental stewardship in a coastal context. We interviewed 111 people in eastern Australia about their knowledge and use of the coast and extracted information on seven generalised stewardship actions. We combined these into a single indicator which allowed us to evaluate and compare stewardship levels between participants and develop quantitative models.
We found that stewardship was predicted by four traits: attraction to marine wildlife, self-identifying as local, size of local social network, and norms regarding informal enforcement. High-stewardship individuals exhibited eco-centric and anthropocentric worldviews and were motivated by a combination of intrinsic and extrinsic factors. We combined these with stewardship actions in a refined model which highlights the importance of people, policy and place in environmental stewardship.
We believe this is the first study to quantify stewardship behaviour and its motivating factors in a broad social-ecological context spanning both terrestrial and marine realms. Our research allows stewardship to be measured, modelled and analysed via a transferable indicator. This enables a deeper understanding of local environmental stewardship and the factors that predict and motivate it and allows us to propose practical strategies to engage people to improve stewardship and conservation outcomes.
Models of social-ecological systems (SES) are acknowledged as an important tool to understand human-nature relations. However, many SES models fail to integrate adequate information from both the human and ecological subsystems. With an example model of a future Offshore Wind Farm development and its effects on both the ecosystem and local human population, we illustrate a method facilitating a “balanced” SES model, in terms of including information from both subsystems. We use qualitative mathematical modeling, which allows to quickly analyze the structure and dynamics of a system without including quantitative data, and therefore to compare alternative system structures based on different understandings of how the system works. By including similar number of system variables in the two subsystems, we balanced the complexity between them. Our analyses show that this complexity is important in order to predict indirect and sometimes counterintuitive effects. We also highlight some conceptually important questions concerning social compensations during developmental projects in general, and wind farms in particular. Our results suggest that the more project holders get involved in various manner in the local socio-ecological system, the more society will benefit as a whole. Increased involvement through e.g. new projects or job-opportunities around the windfarm has the capacity to offset the negative effects of the windfarm on the local community. These benefits are enhanced when there is an overall acceptance and appropriation of the project. We suggest this method as a tool to support the decision-making process and to facilitate discussions between stakeholders, especially among local communities.
Tropical coastal marine ecosystems (TCMEs) are rich in biodiversity and provide many ecosystem services, including carbon storage, shoreline protection, and food. Coastal areas are home to increasing numbers of people and population growth is expected to continue, putting TCMEs under pressure from development as well as broader environmental changes associated with climate change, e.g. sea level rise and ocean acidification. Attention to TCMEs by conservation organizations has increased and although a variety of interventions to promote conservation and sustainable development of TCMEs have been implemented, evidence regarding the outcomes of these—for people or ecosystems—is scattered and unclear. This study takes a systematic mapping approach to identify articles that examine the ecological and social outcomes associated with conservation interventions in TCMEs; specifically in coral reef, mangrove, and seagrass habitats.
We developed a comprehensive framework of conservation interventions and outcomes, drawing on existing frameworks and related evidence synthesis projects, as well as interviews with marine conservation practitioners. We modified existing frameworks to: (i) include features of TCME that are not fully captured in existing frameworks; and (ii) further specify and/or regroup existing interventions or outcomes. We developed a search string informed by habitat, geography, interventions, and outcomes of interest, to search the peer-reviewed primary literature in four bibliographic databases and the grey literature on relevant institutional websites. All searches will be conducted in English. We will screen returned articles at the title and abstract level. Included articles will be screened at full text level and data coding will follow. Number of articles and reasons for excluding at full text level screening will be recorded. At each phase (title and abstract screening, full text screening, data coding), articles will be assessed independently by two members of the review team. Coded data will be reported in a narrative review and a database accessible through an open access, searchable data portal. We will summarize trends in the evidence base, identify interventions and outcomes where evidence can be further assessed in subsequent systematic reviews and where gaps in the literature exist, and discuss the implications of research gaps and gluts for TCME conservation policy, practice, and future research.
Future climate impacts and their consequences are increasingly being explored using multi-model ensembles that average across individual model projections. Here we develop a statistical framework that integrates projections from coupled ecosystem and earth-system models to evaluate significance and uncertainty in marine animal biomass changes over the 21st century in relation to socioeconomic indicators at national to global scales. Significant biomass changes are projected in 40%–57% of the global ocean, with 68%–84% of these areas exhibiting declining trends under low and high emission scenarios, respectively. Given unabated emissions, maritime nations with poor socioeconomic statuses such as low nutrition, wealth, and ocean health will experience the greatest projected losses. These findings suggest that climate-driven biomass changes will widen existing equity gaps and disproportionally affect populations that contributed least to global CO2 emissions. However, our analysis also suggests that such deleterious outcomes are largely preventable by achieving negative emissions (RCP 2.6).
There is a reluctance to incorporate Fishers’ Ecological Knowledge (FEK) into the evidence base used to underpin marine management decisions. FEK has proved to be useful as an alternative reference of biological changes in data-poor scenarios. Yet, recreational fisher knowledge has rarely been included in scientific studies despite being a source of FEK. Here, the use of recreational FEK to assess the conservation status of marine ecosystems in Galicia (NW Spain) was evaluated. Galicia has a highly complex marine socioecological system that includes both a large global commercial fleet and a powerful recreational sector, alongside other important stakeholders (e.g., tourism, aquaculture). Anglers and spear fishers were asked to provide their perceptions of the conservation status of fish stocks and the impacts on marine ecosystems. Face-to-face interviews were transcribed into text and analyzed using text mining tools. Key concepts were used to quantify fishers’ perceptions of changes in their target fish stocks and quantify the main impacts on marine ecosystems. Overfishing and habitat loss, followed by reduction in biodiversity, pollution, and warming temperatures were considered to be the main drivers of the poor status of cephalopods and finfish stocks. Perceived temporal declines in fish stocks were consistent with available biological data, highlighting the potential for recreational FEK to be used to assess long-term ecological changes. It was important to seek opinions from different users, including fishers from traditional commercial and recreational fisheries, as these groups had good knowledge of the impacts on natural and cultural community heritage. The poor status of ballan wrasse (Labrus bergylta) and kelp beds was identified, which was of concern due to it being a key species in coastal ecosystems. Use of FEK is a good approach to develop knowledge of these systems, but broader monitoring programs are needed to protect the future of these ecosystems.
Spatial conservation prioritization concerns trade-offs between marine conservation and resource exploitation. This approach has been increasingly used to devise spatial management strategies for fisheries because of its simplicity in the optimization model and less data requirement compared to complex dynamic models. However, most of the prioritization is based on static models or algorithms; whose solutions need to be evaluated in a dynamic approach, considering the high uncertainty and opportunity costs associated with their implementation. We developed a framework that integrates species distribution models, spatial conservation prioritization tools and a general grid-based dynamic model (Grid-DM) to support evaluation of ecological and economic trade-offs of candidate conservation plans. The Grid-DM is spatially explicit and has a tactical management focus on single species. We applied the Grid-DM to small yellow croaker (Larimichthys polyactis) in Haizhou Bay, China and validated its spatial and temporal performances against historical observations. It was linked to a spatial conservation prioritization tool Marxan to illustrate how the model can be used for conservation strategy evaluation. The simulation model demonstrated effectiveness in capturing the spatio-temporal dynamics of the target fishery as well as the socio-ecological effects of conservation measures. We conclude that the model has the capability and flexibility to address various forms of uncertainties, simulate the dynamics of a targeted fishery, and to evaluate biological and socioeconomic impacts of management plans. The modelling platform can further inform scientists and policy makers of management alternatives screening and adaptive conservation planning.