This paper assesses challenges for social impact assessment (SIA) for coastal and offshore infrastructure projects, using the case study of the Tomakomai Carbon Capture and Storage (CCS) Demonstration Project in Hokkaido, Japan. Interest in SIA and linked concepts such as social licence to operate is growing, yet marine environments also have potential to raise additional complexity in project governance. Drawing on qualitative research conducted in Tomakomai and Japan more widely across the project development and implementation phase, the paper argues that building an understanding of the social, cultural and historical relationship between the community, industry and the sea is crucial to understanding the neutral or cautiously supportive response of the citizens and stakeholders in Tomakomai to the project. Moreover, effective SIA in coastal regions needs to find a way to account for – or at least make visible – these complex relations between society and the sea. Based on the findings, it is suggested that developers or policymakers overseeing SIA in coastal regions ought to pay extra attention to the extent to which developments like CCS are viewed by communities as 'new' as opposed to a continuation of existing activities in the sea; to the importance of engagement on monitoring during the project operations phase; and to the non-economic values such as pride and identity which communities and stakeholders may derive from the sea.
Social-Ecological Systems and Human Wellbeing
"Coastal grab" refers to the contested appropriation of coastal (shore and inshore) space and resources by outside interests. This paper explores the phenomenon of coastal grabbing and the effects of such appropriation on community-based conservation of local resources and environment. The approach combines social-ecological systems analysis with socio-legal property rights studies. Evidence of coastal grab is provided from four country settings (Canada, Brazil, India and South Africa), distinguishing the identity of the 'grabbers' (industry, government) and 'victims', the scale and intensity of the process, and the resultant 'booty'. The paper also considers the responses of the communities. While emphasizing the scale of coastal grab and its deleterious consequences for local communities and their conservation efforts, the paper also recognizes the strength of community responses, and the alliances/partnerships with academia and civil society, which assist in countering some of the negative effects.
Fishers worldwide operate in an environment of uncertainty and constant change. Their ability to manage risk associated with such uncertainty and subsequently adapt to change is largely a function of individual circumstances, including their access to different fisheries. However, explicit attention to the heterogeneity of fishers’ connections to fisheries at the level of the individual has been largely ignored. We illustrate the ubiquitous nature of these connections by constructing a typology of commercial fishers in the state of Maine based on the different fisheries that fishers rely on to sustain their livelihoods and find that there are over 600 combinations. We evaluate the adaptive potential of each strategy, using a set of attributes identified by fisheries experts in the state, and find that only 12% of fishers can be classified as being well positioned to adapt in the face of changing socioeconomic and ecological conditions. Sensitivity to the uneven and heterogeneous capacity of fishers to manage risk and adapt to change is critical to devising effective management strategies that broadly support fishers. This will require greater attention to the social-ecological connectivity of fishers across different jurisdictions.
The concept of spatial resilience has brought a new focus on the influence of multi-scale processes on the dynamics of ecosystems. Initial ideas about spatial resilience focused on coral reefs and emphasized escalating anthropogenic disturbances across the broader seascape. This perspective resonated with a new awareness of global drivers of change, such as growth in international trade and shifts in climate, and the need to respond by scaling up governance and management. We review recent trends and emerging ideas in spatial resilience, using coral reefs and dependent communities as exemplars of multi-scale social–ecological systems. Despite recent advances, management and governance of ecosystems remain spatially fragmented and constrained to small scales. Temporally, many interventions still miss or ignore warning signals and struggle to cope with history, politics, long-term cumulative pressures, feedbacks, and sudden surprises. Significant recent progress has been made in understanding the relevance of spatial and temporal scale, heterogeneity, networks, the importance of place, and multi-scale governance. Emerging themes include better integration of ecology and conservation with social and economic science, and incorporating temporal dynamics in spatial analyses. A better understanding of the multi-scale spatial and temporal processes that drive the resilience of linked social-ecosystems will help address the widespread mismatch between the scales of ongoing ecological change and effective long-term governance of land- and seascapes.
Research on vulnerability and adaptation in social-ecological systems (SES) has largely centered on climate change and associated biophysical stressors. Key implications of this are twofold. First, there has been limited engagement with the impacts of social drivers of change on communities and linked SES. Second, the focus on climate effects often assumes slower drivers of change and fails to differentiate the implications of change occurring at different timescales. This has resulted in a body of SES scholarship that is under-theorized in terms of how communities experience and respond to fast versus slow change. Yet, social and economic processes at global scales increasingly emerge as ‘shocks’ for local systems, driving rapid and often surprising forms of change distinct from and yet interacting with the impacts of slow, ongoing ‘trends’. This research seeks to understand the nature and impacts of social shocks as opposed to or in concert with trends through the lens of a qualitative case study of a coastal community in Mexico, where demand from international seafood markets has spurred rapid development of a sea cucumber fishery. Specifically, we examined what different social-ecological changes are being experienced by the community, how the impacts of the sea cucumber fishery are distinct from and interacting with slower ongoing trends and how these processes are affecting system vulnerability, adaptations and adaptive capacity. We begin by proposing a novel framework for conceptualizing impacts on social systems, as comprised of structures, functions, and feedbacks. Our results illustrate how the rapid-onset of this fishery has ecological changes are being experienced by the community, how the impacts of the sea cucumber fishery are distinct from and interacting with slower ongoing trends and in poaching and armed violence have emerged, exacerbating pressures from ongoing trends in immigration, overfishing and tourism development. We argue that there is a need to better understand and differentiate the social and ecological implications of shocks, which present novel challenges for the vulnerability and adaptive capacity of communities and the sustainability of marine ecosystems.
Because of the complexity and speed of environmental, climatic, and socio-political change in coastal marine social-ecological systems, there is significant academic and applied interest in assessing and fostering the adaptive capacity of coastal communities. Adaptive capacity refers to the latent ability of a system to respond proactively and positively to stressors or opportunities. A variety of qualitative, quantitative, and participatory approaches have been developed and applied to understand and assess adaptive capacity, each with different benefits, drawbacks, insights, and implications. Drawing on case studies of coastal communities from around the globe, we describe and compare 11 approaches that are often used to study adaptive capacity of social and ecological systems in the face of social, environmental, and climatic change. We synthesize lessons from a series of case studies to present important considerations to frame research and to choose an assessment approach, key challenges to analyze adaptive capacity in linked social-ecological systems, and good practices to link results to action to foster adaptive capacity. We suggest that more attention be given to integrated social-ecological assessments and that greater effort be placed on evaluation and monitoring of adaptive capacity over time and across scales. Overall, although sustainability science holds a promise of providing solutions to real world problems, we found that too few assessments seem to lead to tangible outcomes or actions to foster adaptive capacity in social-ecological systems.
The incorporation of local and traditional knowledges into environmental governance regimes is increasingly recognised as a critical component of effective and equitable conservation efforts. However, there remain significant barriers to integration of community-based knowledge within mainstream environmental governance. This paper explores community-based knowledge in the context of Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA), a widely-used governance tool designed to predict and manage the impacts of development. Drawing on a social survey and interviews, the paper documents local community knowledge of environmental changes associated with dredging and the construction of Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG) plants in a large industrial harbour located in the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area, and compares this knowledge with public consultation opportunities offered throughout the project lifecycle, including during assessment and after project approval. The findings highlight a misalignment between community knowledge of environmental change, which is acquired largely after impacts become apparent, and the public participation opportunities afforded through EIA, which generally occur before construction or dredging is undertaken.
Managing for sustainable development and resource extraction requires an understanding of the feedbacks between ecosystems and humans. These feedbacks are part of complex social-ecological systems (SES), in which resources, actors, and governance systems interact to produce outcomes across these component parts. Qualitative modeling approaches offer ways to assess complex SES dynamics. Loop analysis in particular is useful for examining and identifying potential outcomes from external perturbations and management interventions in data poor systems when very little is known about functional relationships and parameter values. Using a case study of multispecies, multifleet coastal small-scale fisheries, we demonstrate the application of loop analysis to provide predictions regarding SES responses to perturbations and management actions. Specifically, we examine the potential ecological and socioeconomic consequences to coastal fisheries of different governance interventions (e.g., territorial user rights, fisheries closures, market-based incentives, ecotourism subsidies) and environmental changes. Our results indicate that complex feedbacks among biophysical and socioeconomic components can result in counterintuitive and unexpected outcomes. For example, creating new jobs through ecotourism or subsidies might have mixed effects on members of fishing cooperatives vs. nonmembers, highlighting equity issues. Market-based interventions, such as ecolabels, are expected to have overall positive economic effects, assuming a direct effect of ecolabels on market-prices, and a lack of negative biological impacts under most model structures. Our results highlight that integrating ecological and social variables in a unique unit of management can reveal important potential trade-offs between desirable ecological and social outcomes, highlight which user groups might be more vulnerable to external shocks, and identify which interventions should be further tested to identify potential win-win outcomes across the triple-bottom line of the sustainable development paradigm.
Locally managed marine areas (LMMAs) are often recommended as a strategy to achieve conservation and fisheries management, though few studies have evaluated their performance against these objectives. We assessed the effectiveness of eight periodically harvested closures (PHCs), the most common form of management within Fijian LMMAs, focusing on two outcomes: protection of resource units and biodiversity conservation. Of the eight PHCs, only one provided biodiversity benefits, whereas three were moderately successful in protecting resource units (targeted fish biomass). Protection of resource units was more likely when PHCs were harvested less frequently, less recently, and when total fish biomass in open areas was lower. Our findings further suggest that monitoring, enforcement, and clearly defined boundaries are critical, less frequent harvesting regimes are advised, and culturally appropriate management incentives are needed. Although PHCs have some potential to protect resource units, they are not recommended as a single strategy for broad-scale biodiversity conservation.
It has long been claimed that a better understanding of human or social dimensions of environmental issues will improve conservation. The social sciences are one important means through which researchers and practitioners can attain that better understanding. Yet, a lack of awareness of the scope and uncertainty about the purpose of the conservation social sciences impedes the conservation community's effective engagement with the human dimensions. This paper examines the scope and purpose of eighteen subfields of classic, interdisciplinary and applied conservation social sciences and articulates ten distinct contributions that the social sciences can make to understanding and improving conservation. In brief, the conservation social sciences can be valuable to conservation for descriptive, diagnostic, disruptive, reflexive, generative, innovative, or instrumental reasons. This review and supporting materials provides a succinct yet comprehensive reference for conservation scientists and practitioners. We contend that the social sciences can help facilitate conservation policies, actions and outcomes that are more legitimate, salient, robust and effective.