Managing ecosystems for multiple ecosystem services and balancing the well-being of diverse stakeholders involves different kinds of trade-offs. Often trade-offs involve noneconomic and difficult-to-evaluate values, such as cultural identity, employment, the well-being of poor people, or particular species or ecosystem structures. Although trade-offs need to be considered for successful environmental management, they are often overlooked in favor of win-wins. Management and policy decisions demand approaches that can explicitly acknowledge and evaluate diverse trade-offs. We identified a diversity of apparent trade-offs in a small-scale tropical fishery when ecological simulations were integrated with participatory assessments of social–ecological system structure and stakeholders’ well-being. Despite an apparent win-win between conservation and profitability at the aggregate scale, food production, employment, and well-being of marginalized stakeholders were differentially influenced by management decisions leading to trade-offs. Some of these trade-offs were suggested to be “taboo” trade-offs between morally incommensurable values, such as between profits and the well-being of marginalized women. These were not previously recognized as management issues. Stakeholders explored and deliberated over trade-offs supported by an interactive “toy model” representing key system trade-offs, alongside qualitative narrative scenarios of the future. The concept of taboo trade-offs suggests that psychological bias and social sensitivity may exclude key issues from decision making, which can result in policies that are difficult to implement. Our participatory modeling and scenarios approach has the potential to increase awareness of such trade-offs, promote discussion of what is acceptable, and potentially identify and reduce obstacles to management compliance.
Social-Ecological Systems and Human Wellbeing
The three basic principles of sustainable development, relating to ecology, economy and society, have long been embedded within national and international strategies. In recent years we have augmented these principles by a further seven considerations giving rise to the so-called 10-tenets of sustainable management. Whilst theoretically appealing, discussion of the tenets to date has been largely generic and qualitative and, until the present paper, there has been no formal and quantitative application of these tenets to an actual example. To promote the concept of successful and sustainable environmental management there is the need to develop a robust and practical framework to accommodate value judgements relating to each of the tenets. Although, as originally presented, the tenets relate specifically to management measures, they may also be applied directly to a specific development or activity. This paper examines the application of the tenets in both of these contexts, and considers their incorporation into an assessment tool to help visualise and quantify issues of sustainability.
Environmental governance is more effective when the scales of ecological processes are well matched with the human institutions charged with managing human–environment interactions. The social-ecological systems (SESs) framework provides guidance on how to assess the social and ecological dimensions that contribute to sustainable resource use and management, but rarely if ever has been operationalized for multiple localities in a spatially explicit, quantitative manner. Here, we use the case of small-scale fisheries in Baja California Sur, Mexico, to identify distinct SES regions and test key aspects of coupled SESs theory. Regions that exhibit greater potential for social-ecological sustainability in one dimension do not necessarily exhibit it in others, highlighting the importance of integrative, coupled system analyses when implementing spatial planning and other ecosystem-based strategies.
Ecosystem services have become a mainstream concept for the expression of values assigned by people to various functions of ecosystems. Even though the introduction of the concept has initiated a vast amount of research, progress in using this knowledge for sustainable resource use remains insufficient. We see a need to broaden the scope of research to answer three key questions that we believe will improve incorporation of ecosystem service research into decision-making for the sustainable use of natural resources to improve human well-being: (i) how are ecosystem services co-produced by social–ecological systems, (ii) who benefits from the provision of ecosystem services, and (iii) what are the best practices for the governance of ecosystem services? Here, we present these key questions, the rationale behind them, and their related scientific challenges in a globally coordinated research programme aimed towards improving sustainable ecosystem management. These questions will frame the activities of ecoSERVICES, formerly a DIVERSITAS project and now a project of Future Earth, in its role as a platform to foster global coordination of multidisciplinary sustainability science through the lens of ecosystem services.
Improving our understanding about ecosystem production, function, and services is central to balancing both conservation and development goals while enhancing human well-being. This study builds a scientific basis for conservation and development planning by exploring the types, abundance, and spatial variation in ecosystem services in the Noto Peninsula of Japan, a Globally Important Agricultural Heritage Systems. Although the Noto Peninsula is recognized as an important social–ecological production landscape, limited quantitative information about ecosystem services is available. This study evaluates and maps ecosystem services and explores their spatial variation using original data obtained through questionnaire surveys and secondary data from literature, statistics, and geographic information systems. The hilly and mountainous geography of the Noto Peninsula and its remoteness from large consumption markets work as constraints for agricultural provisioning services by limiting water resources, labor productivity, and choice of economically viable crops. However, the rich forests, and marine and coastal resources provide various economic opportunities for forest-, fishery-, and livestock-related provisioning services. Geographical conditions such as land use and cover type also play an important role in differentiating the spatial variation of regulating services, a variation that starkly differs to distribution patterns in other areas. Unlike provisioning and regulating services, natural and artificial landscape components including traditional and cultural constructions such as shrines and temples work as an anchor to help people appreciate intangible and tangible cultural services, linking different services to specific locales across the Noto Peninsula.
The Maine lobster Homarus americanus fishery is considered one of the most successful fisheries in the world due in part to its unique comanagement system, the conservation ethic of the harvesters, and the ability of the industry to respond to crises and solve collective-action problems. However, recent threats raise the question whether the industry will be able to respond to future threats as successfully as it has to ones in the past or whether it is now less resilient and can no longer adequately respond to threats. Through ethnographic research and oral histories with fishermen, we examined the current level of social resilience in the lobster fishery. We concentrated on recent threats to the industry and the ways in which it has responded to them, focusing on three situations: a price drop beginning in 2008, a recovery in 2010–2011, and a second collapse of prices in 2012. In addition, we considered other environmental and regulatory concerns identified by fishermen. We found that the industry is not responding effectively to recent threats and identified factors that might explain the level of social resilience in the fishery.
Understanding social-ecological system dynamics is a major research priority for sustainable management of landscapes, ecosystems and resources. But the lack of multi-decadal records represents an important gap in information that hinders the development of the research agenda. Without improved information on the long-term and complex interactions between causal factors and responses, it will be difficult to answer key questions about trends, rates of change, tipping points, safe operating spaces and pre-impact conditions. Where available long-term monitored records are too short or lacking, palaeoenvironmental sciences may provide continuous multi-decadal records for an array of ecosystem states, processes and services. Combining these records with conventional sources of historical information from instrumental monitoring records, official statistics and enumerations, remote sensing, archival documents, cartography and archaeology produces an evolutionary framework for reconstructing integrated regional histories. We demonstrate the integrated approach with published case studies from Australia, China, Europe and North America.
In many coastal regions, activities of multiple users present a growing strain on the ecological state of the area. The necessity of using integrative system approaches to understand and solve coastal problems has become obvious in the last decades. Integrated management strategies for social-ecological systems (SESs) call for the development of SES indicators that help (i) to identify and link the states and processes of social, economic and ecological subsystems and (ii) to balance different stakeholder objectives over the long-term within natural limits. Here we use a system dynamics modeling approach called group model building (GMB) as a diagnostic participative tool for understanding the determinants of characteristic SES issues in the Dutch Wadden Sea region and exploring salient SES indicators for management. We used GMB in two separate workshops for two distinct cases: sustainable mussel fisheries and tourism development. Follow-up online questionnaires elicited relevant variables for deriving SES indicators. In both modeling cases participants identified and connected the variables that expressed fundamental SES dynamics driving each issue. In the mussel fisheries model the central part of the structure was the interaction between the model variables ‘extent of mussel habitat with high natural value’, ‘mussel cultivation efficiency’, and ‘market supply’. In the tourism model a key driving force for explaining tourist development was the reciprocal relation between the model variables ‘natural value’, ‘experience value’, and ‘number of tourists’. Application of GMB revealed SES issue complexity and explicitly identified key linkages and potential SES indicators for policy and management in the Dutch Wadden Sea area. As a tool for stakeholder involvement in integrated coastal management the approach enables the joint building of system understanding and the exchange of individual perspectives. Participants agreed with the jointly created models and highly appreciated the way the structured approach facilitated communication and learning about complex and contested issues.
Prioritizing social indicators of wellbeing and linking them to specific marine resource management contexts requires ongoing consideration of local community values, social change drivers and dynamic governance goals and objectives. As coastal communities undertake new initiatives to develop marine spatial plans, anticipate renewable energy development projects or examine ecosystem service trade-offs in the context of fishery declines or climate change, this study provides timely insight into the full complexity, political nature, and institutionalized constraints of social assessment integration. Using a qualitative case study of Pacific Fishery Management Council briefing books to assess the Council's current use of socioeconomic data as well as a quantitative survey of other integrated human wellbeing assessment projects from around the world, this study 1) compares the priority domains of wellbeing being promoted in different socio-ecological system governance contexts, 2) outlines a preferred methodology for selecting human and social wellbeing metrics that are reflective of community needs, and 3) makes suggestions for improving the integration of human wellbeing research in U.S. Fishery Management Council processes.
There are many islands in the ocean surrounding Taiwan which can provide rich resources for the people such as fisheries. However, Taiwan is facing environmental issues from increasing human activities and the functions of natural systems that are weakened large anthropogenic disturbances. The concept of resilience is introduced to explain the unbalanced interactions and feedbacks between social and ecological system would impede recovery in the natural process and negatively impact on the social system. This study examines the Social Ecological System（SES）approach as a tool, which gives the decision maker a holistic picture of the complexity of the interactions between the human system and the natural environment system regarding the Marine Protected Areas (MPA) designation. To apply this idea to a real world case, this research examines three case studies in Taiwan, i.e., the Green Island case as a failure in establishing a MPA; the Dongsha Atoll National Park as a successful case of marine national park establishment in Taiwan. By reviewing these two examples, this study applies lessons two cases to the proposed Four Islands of Southern Penghu National Park. Among the key factors that affect the Marine Protected Area (MPA) designation in Taiwan, stakeholder engagement is the focus of this study. Stakeholder analysis is a main method to clarify different perspectives of stakeholders toward the MPA development because stakeholder support was critical in defeating the Green Island proposal but important in the success of Dongsha National Park. Stakeholder interviews are performed to better understand the conflicts among different parties and how they are involved in the designation processes. The results are mainly based on discussion of the stakeholders' perspectives and engagement in the case of the Four Island of Southern Penghu National Park. In the end, the conclusions show the importance of the enhancing adaptive capacity of the government, including stakeholder engagement in the designation process, and the Socio-Ecological System (SES) framework application in the context of MPA designation.