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.
Social-Ecological Systems and Human Wellbeing
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.
We are at a key juncture in history where biodiversity loss is occurring daily and accelerating in the face of population growth, climate change, and rampant development. Simultaneously, we are just beginning to appreciate the wealth of human health benefits that stem from experiencing nature and biodiversity. Here we assessed the state of knowledge on relationships between human health and nature and biodiversity, and prepared a comprehensive listing of reported health effects. We found strong evidence linking biodiversity with production of ecosystem services and between nature exposure and human health, but many of these studies were limited in rigor and often only correlative. Much less information is available to link biodiversity and health. However, some robust studies indicate that exposure to microbial biodiversity can improve health, specifically in reducing certain allergic and respiratory diseases. Overall, much more research is needed on mechanisms of causation. Also needed are a re-envisioning of land-use planning that places human well-being at the center and a new coalition of ecologists, health and social scientists and planners to conduct research and develop policies that promote human interaction with nature and biodiversity. Improvements in these areas should enhance human health and ecosystem, community, as well as human resilience.
Human pressure could compromise the provision of ecosystem services if we do not implement strategies such as ecosystem stewardship to foster sustainable trajectories. Barriers to managing systems based on ecosystem stewardship principles are pervasive, including institutional constraints and uncertain system dynamics. However, solutions to help managers overcome these barriers are less common. How can we better integrate ecosystem stewardship into natural resource management practices? I draw on examples from the literature and two broadly applicable case studies from Alaska to suggest some generalizable principles that can help managers redirect how people use and view ecosystems. These include (1) accounting for both people and ecosystems in management actions; (2) considering historical and current system dynamics, but managing flexibly for the future; (3) identifying interactions between organizational, temporal, and spatial scales; (4) embracing multiple causes in addition to multiple objectives; and (5) acknowledging that there are no panaceas and that success will be incremental. I also identify next steps to rigorously evaluate the broad utility of these principles and quickly move principles from theory to application. The findings of this study suggest that natural resource managers are poised to overcome the barriers to implementing ecosystem stewardship and to develop innovative adaptations to social-ecological problems.
Modern resource management faces trade-offs in the provision of various ecosystem goods and services to humanity. For fisheries management to develop into an ecosystem-based approach, the goal is not only to maximize economic profits, but to consider equally important conservation and social equity goals. We introduce such a triple-bottom line approach to the management of multi-species fisheries using the Baltic Sea as a case study. We apply a coupled ecological-economic optimization model to address the actual fisheries management challenge of trading-off the recovery of collapsed cod stocks versus the health of ecologically important forage fish populations. Management strategies based on profit maximization would rebuild the cod stock to high levels but may cause the risk of stock collapse for forage species with low market value, such as Baltic sprat (Fig. 1A). Economically efficient conservation efforts to protect sprat would be borne almost exclusively by the forage fishery as sprat fishing effort and profits would strongly be reduced. Unless compensation is paid, this would challenge equity between fishing sectors (Fig. 1B). Optimizing equity while respecting sprat biomass precautionary levels would reduce potential profits of the overall Baltic fishery, but may offer an acceptable balance between overall profits, species conservation and social equity (Fig. 1C). Our case study shows a practical example of how an ecosystem-based fisheries management will be able to offer society options to solve common conflicts between different resource uses. Adding equity considerations to the traditional trade-off between economy and ecology will greatly enhance credibility and hence compliance to management decisions, a further footstep towards healthy fish stocks and sustainable fisheries in the world ocean.