Regime shifts from one ecological state to another are often portrayed as sudden, dramatic, and difficult to reverse given the extent of substantial reorganizations in system structure, functions and feedbacks. However, most assessments of regime shifts in terrestrial and aquatic systems have emphasized their physical and/or biological dimensions. Our objective is to illustrate how equivalent concern with ecological and social processes can enhance our ability to understand and navigate ‘social-ecological’ regime shifts. We draw on two coastal lagoon systems experiencing rapid change to provide an empirical foundation for an initial analytical framework. Key issues we address include: 1) distinguishing underlying versus proximate drivers of rapid change (ecological and social); 2) considering appropriate scales of intervention; 3) considering the appropriate unit(s) for understanding regime shifts; 4) reflecting on social equity and the distribution of impacts (and benefits) of regime shifts; 5) assessing the influence of social power in the framing of and response to regime shifts; and 6) clarifying the role of management and governance in the context of rapid social-ecological change. Effective responses to social-ecological regime shifts will require a transition towards interdisciplinary research, inclusion of integrative and scale-specific suite of attributes for assessment, and interventions in management and governance approaches that are more multi-level, collaborative and adaptive.
Social-Ecological Systems and Human Wellbeing
Conventional common property thinking assumes that a central goal of management is to maintain social-ecological systems in a healthy and resilient state, including maintaining the ability of communities to harvest across time and generations. Little research has been done, however, on how common property systems are affected by demographic shifts, the social status of emerging livelihoods, and the employment aspirations of users for their offspring. An empirical case study from Chile (well known for its common property fisheries) suggests that major socio-cultural shifts are now occurring, with a lack of entry by new fishers and an aging population of existing ones. These types of social and cultural changes are increasingly common through globalization and worldwide economic development, and pose significant policy challenges across broad classes of common property systems. The Chilean case reveals that community adaptive capacity can come at the expense of social-ecological common property systems, and highlights the need to consider the broader context of ‘slow’ social variables.
Small-scale fisheries (SSFs) constitute a critical socioeconomic sector by providing a source of income and animal protein for fishing communities worldwide. In Uruguay this sector has traditionally been neglected. More recently, the Uruguayan government has shown an increasing interest in readdressing this situation by setting a high-level policy for SSFs. This paper addresses the long-term process from conceptualization to operationalization of the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries (EAF) in Uruguayan SSFs. An overview of the social-ecological enabling conditions that facilitated EAF operationalization across four pilot sites is also provided. Long-term results showed that the intrinsic characteristics of each fishery conditioned the goals achieved. Fishery systems with more favorable enabling conditions served as starting points for operationalizing an EAF strategy. By contrast, SSFs with historical conflicts of use and a complex relationship between the fisheries management agency and fishing communities are still challenging. These results were used as learning platforms to strength and enhance the normative framework regarding management of SSFs. Progresses in EAF implementation at pilot sites have provided initial building blocks for scaling practices to other Uruguayan SSFs. The translation of processes and results into the long-term fishery policy allowed establishing an appropriate legal basis for further EAF development at a national level. Despite the above, long-term political will is critical for sustaining responsible fishing practices and the involvement of fishers as stewardships of their own activity.
In South Africa, marine protected areas (MPAs) continue to be a favoured tool for biodiversity conservation and fisheries management. Efforts to expand the network of MPAs are contested largely due to historical injustices associated with MPA establishment and the ongoing social impacts linked with their current management and governance. This paper presents findings of recent research on the social dimensions of MPAs in five MPAs in South Africa. Drawing on information gathered from 70 oral histories, over 250 key informant interviews and 28 focus groups, the paper examines key social impacts respondents attribute to MPAs and their establishment and ongoing management. Significant negative impacts reported include the weakening of local governance rights and processes, in particular the lack of effective mechanisms for local community participation in decision-making. The loss of tenure rights and access to resources amongst already marginalised communities has contributed to food insecurity, less exchange of food and less household income. The MPAs investigated have impacted on culture, way of life and sense of place. Yet, despite government commitments to several international policy instruments relevant to MPAs and national laws legislating redress, social issues associated with MPAs have been largely overlooked. Findings from this research demonstrate that the failure to address historical impacts, as well as social hardships and inequities still being experienced, undermine the legitimacy of MPAs and frustrate the achievement of objectives and plans to increase the marine space under protection. Ways of working towards more effective, legitimate and sustainable MPAs in South Africa are suggested.
International interest in increasing marine protected area (MPA) coverage reflects broad recognition of the MPA as a key tool for marine ecosystems and fisheries management. Nevertheless, effective management remains a significant challenge. The present study contributes to enriching an understanding of best practices for MPA management through analysis of archived community survey data collected in the Philippines by the Learning Project (LP), a collaboration with United States Coral Triangle Initiative (USCTI), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and partners. We evaluate stakeholder participation and social ecological interactions among resource users in MPA programs in the Palawan, Occidental Mindoro, and Batangas provinces in the Philippines. Analysis indicates that a complex suite of social ecological factors, including demographics, conservation beliefs, and scientifically correct knowledge influence participation, which in turn is related to perceived MPA performance. Findings indicate positive feedbacks within the system that have potential to strengthen perceptions of MPA success. The results of this evaluation provide empirical reinforcement to current inquiries concerning the role of participation in influencing MPA performance.
Urban development along the coastal zone involves land use changes that directly affect coastal ecosystems and services. The Bay of Cádiz, a metropolitan area in the south of Spain, is a study case in which the urban coastal occupation is clearly reflected, with the consequent loss of certain services that the ecosystems offer to the population. The research analyses urban changes in land uses and their impacts for Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) proposals.
The methodology used in the research leads with the definition of the Bay of Cádiz as a Social-Ecological System, where natural and geographical characteristics converge with those social, economic and administrative, for delimiting the study area with an integrated perspective. The study of land uses evolution in the Social-Ecological System of the Bay of Cádiz, as well as the analysis of every ecosystem and their services, allows to obtain those impacts on human well-being that happen from pressures exerted. This analysis is developed through DPSIWR method, in which human well-being is incorporated to obtain ICZM responses.
Results show that land use changes in the Bay of Cádiz involves the loss of those ecosystems that offer the most important services to the population, such as tidal saltmarshes. In this sense, management responses should be focused on the conservation of these threatened services, with the coordination and cooperation among different public administrations.
In Easter Island, most of fisheries regulations are top-down implemented by the central fisheries authority located ~4000 km eastwards. This could generate problems in regulations compliance, given the cultural differences between the western worldview and Polynesian culture of Easter Island. A total of 18 issues that must be considered previously to an intervention in the island were identified. Four of them scored the highest difference between Rapanui and public services representatives. Among them, “Integrating traditions and culture” had a little priority for the public services representatives, but was the most important for the Rapanui. According to the public services representatives in Easter Island and local fishermen, there is a little compliance with regulations related to fisheries and, due to cultural aspects, it is not possible to enforce regulations and apply sanctions. The low compliance with fisheries regulations is due to the lack of representativeness of regulations. Interventions in the island are based on western worldview that does not fit with social and ecological domains of social-ecological system. A flexible governance system, based on decision making at local level in line with local tradition is needed to navigate to a resource management and conservation in Easter Island.
The Caribbean coral reef ecosystem has experienced a long history of deterioration due to various stressors. For instance, over-fishing of parrotfish – an important grazer of macroalgae that can prevent destructive overgrowth of macroalgae – has threatened reef ecosystems in recent decades and stimulated conservation efforts such as the formation of marine protected areas. Here we develop a mathematical model of coupled socio-ecological interactions between reef dynamics and conservation opinion dynamics to better understand how natural and human factors interact individually and in combination to determine coral reef cover. We find that the coupling opinion and reef systems generates complex dynamics that are difficult to anticipate without use of a model. For instance, instead of converging to a stable state of constant coral cover and conservationist opinion, the system can oscillate between low and high live coral cover as human opinion oscillates in a boom-bust cycle between complacency and concern. Out of various possible parameter manipulations, we also find that raising awareness of coral reef endangerment best avoids counter-productive nonlinear feedbacks and always increases and stabilizes live coral reef cover. In conclusion, an improved understanding of coupled opinion-reef dynamics under anthrogenic stressors is possible using coupled socio-ecological models, and such models should be further researched.
Introduction: Interrelated social and ecological challenges demand an understanding of how environmental change and management decisions affect human well-being. This paper outlines a framework for measuring human well-being for ecosystem-based management (EBM). We present a prototype that can be adapted and developed for various scales and contexts. Scientists and managers use indicators to assess status and trends in integrated ecosystem assessments (IEAs). To improve the social science rigor and success of EBM, we developed a systematic and transparent approach for evaluating indicators of human well-being for an IEA.
Methods: Our process is based on a comprehensive conceptualization of human well-being, a scalable analysis of management priorities, and a set of indicator screening criteria tailored to the needs of EBM. We tested our approach by evaluating more than 2000 existing social indicators related to ocean and coastal management of the US West Coast. We focused on two foundational attributes of human well-being: resource access and self-determination.
Outcomes and Discussion: Our results suggest that existing indicators and data are limited in their ability to reflect linkages between environmental change and human well-being, and extremely limited in their ability to assess social equity and justice. We reveal a critical need for new social indicators tailored to answer environmental questions and new data that are disaggregated by social variables to measure equity. In both, we stress the importance of collaborating with the people whose well-being is to be assessed.
Conclusion: Our framework is designed to encourage governments and communities to carefully assess the complex tradeoffs inherent in environmental decision-making.
More than 6000 seafarers have been held hostage by pirates in the last ten years. There is a small but developing body of research showing that these seafarers may face lasting challenges in recovery. However, current studies on this question have been limited by a lack of comparison groups, a lack of statistical power, and other methodological challenges. This study contributes to this body of research through a survey of 101 former hostages and 363 seafarers not known to be exposed to piracy from India, the Philippines, and Ukraine. Using clinically validated scales for tracking lasting impact, this research finds that 25.77% of former hostages show symptoms consistent with PTSD, and that hostage experiences and other maritime traumas can have impacts on seafarer wellbeing and decisions about their career through the impact these traumas have on post-traumatic stress symptoms.