We propose a framework to support management that builds on a social–ecological system perspective on the Arctic Ocean. We illustrate the framework’s application for two policy-relevant scenarios of climate-driven change, picturing a shift in zooplankton composition and alternatively a crab invasion. We analyse archetypical system dynamics between the socio-economic, the natural, and the governance systems in these scenarios. Our holistic approach can help managers identify looming problems arising from complex system interactions and prioritise among problems and solutions, even when available data are limited.
Social-Ecological Systems and Human Wellbeing
There has been an assumption that because many large marine protected areas (LMPAs) are designated in areas with relatively few direct uses, they therefore have few stakeholders and negligible social outcomes. This article challenges this assumption with diverse examples of social outcomes that are distinctive in LMPAs. We define social outcomes as inclusive of both social change processes and social impacts, where “social” includes all perceptual or material human dimensions. We draw on five in-depth case studies to report social outcomes resulting from proposed or designated LMPAs in Bermuda, Rapa Nui (Easter Island), Kiribati, Palau, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands & Guam. We conclude: (1) social outcomes arise even in remote LMPAs; (2) LMPA efforts generate social outcomes at all stages of development; (3) LMPAs have the potential to produce outcomes at a higher level of social organization, which can change the scope and type of affected populations and, in some cases, the nature and stakes of the outcomes themselves; (4) the potential for LMPAs to impart distinctive social outcomes results from their unique geographies and/or intersection with high-level politics and policy processes; and (5) social outcomes of LMPAs may emerge in the form of social change processes and/or social impacts.
As the environmental issues facing our planet change, scientific efforts need to inform the sustainable management of marine resources by adopting a socio-ecological systems approach. Taking the symposium on “Understanding marine socio-ecological systems: including the human dimension in Integrated Ecosystem Assessments (MSEAS)” as an opportunity we organized a workshop to foster the dialogue between early and advanced-career researchers and explore the conceptual and methodological challenges marine socio-ecological systems research faces. The discussions focused on: a) interdisciplinary research teams versus interdisciplinary scientists; b) idealism versus pragmatism on dealing with data and conceptual gaps; c) publishing interdisciplinary research. Another major discussion point was the speed at which governance regimes and institutional structures are changing and the role of researchers in keeping up with it. Irrespective of generation, training or nationality, all participants agreed on the need for multi-method approaches that encompass different social, political, ecological and institutional settings, account for complexity and communicate uncertainties. A shift is needed in the questions the marine socio-ecological scientific community addresses, which could happen by drawing on lessons learnt and experiences gained. These require in turn a change in education and training, accompanied by a change in research and educational infrastructures.
In various scientific disciplines resilience has become a key concept for theoretical frameworks and more practical goals. The growing interest resulted in multiple definitions of resilience. This paper highlights how and why resilience has become a meaningful concept guiding multiple disciplines to understand and govern social–ecological systems. Moreover, the concept of resilience can be operationalized in complex social–ecological systems that are inherent to change and unpredictable outcomes.
Marine social–ecological systems are constantly changing, and fishers who make a living from working the seas are continually adapting in response to different sources of variability. One main way in which fishers can adapt to ecosystem change is to change the fisheries they participate in. This acts to connect fisheries, creating interlinked networks of alternative sources of income for fishers. Here, we synthesize fisheries data and construct fisheries connectivity networks for all major ports in the US California Current Large Marine Ecosystem. Fisheries connectivity networks are comprised of nodes, which are fisheries, connected by edges, whose weights are proportional to the number of participating vessels. Fisheries connectivity networks identify central fisheries in the US California Current Large Marine Ecosystem, specifically Dungeness crab and Spiny Lobster, and systematic topological differences, e.g. in network resilience and modularity. These network metrics directly relate to the social vulnerability of coastal fishing communities, especially their sensitivity and capacity to adapt to perturbation. Ultimately, improving knowledge of fisheries connectivity is vital if policy makers are to create governance institutions that allow fishermen to adapt to environmental, technological and management change while at the same time enhancing the social and economic value of fisheries. In doing so, new policies that account for fisheries connectivity, will lead to improved sustainable fisheries management, and enhanced socioeconomic resilience of coastal communities.
Ecosystems influence human societies, leading people to manage ecosystems for human benefit. Poor environmental management can lead to reduced ecological resilience and social–ecological collapse. We review research on resilience and collapse across different systems and propose a unifying social–ecological framework based on (i) a clear definition of system identity; (ii) the use of quantitative thresholds to define collapse; (iii) relating collapse processes to system structure; and (iv) explicit comparison of alternative hypotheses and models of collapse. Analysis of 17 representative cases identified 14 mechanisms, in five classes, that explain social–ecological collapse. System structure influences the kind of collapse a system may experience. Mechanistic theories of collapse that unite structure and process can make fundamental contributions to solving global environmental problems.
As social–ecological systems enter a period of rapid global change, science must predict and explain ‘unthinkable’ social, ecological, and social–ecological collapses.
Existing theories of collapse are weakly integrated with resilience theory and ideas about vulnerability and sustainability.
Mechanisms of collapse are poorly understood and often heavily contested. Progress in understanding collapse requires greater clarity on system identity and alternative causes of collapse.
Archaeological theories have focused on a limited range of reasons for system collapse. In resilience theory, the adaptive cycle has been used to describe collapse but offers little insight into the mechanisms that cause it.
Theories of collapse should connect structure and process. Mechanistic, structure–process–function theories of collapse suggest new avenues for understanding and improving resilience.
Many fishers diversify their income by participating in multiple fisheries, which has been shown to significantly reduce year-to-year variation in income. The ability of fishers to diversify has become increasingly constrained in the last few decades, and catch share programs could further reduce diversification as a result of consolidation. This could increase income variation and thus financial risk. However, catch shares can also offer fishers opportunities to enter or increase participation in catch share fisheries by purchasing or leasing quota. Thus, the net effect on diversification is uncertain. We tested whether diversification and variation in fishing revenues changed after implementation of catch shares for 6,782 vessels in 13 US fisheries that account for 20% of US landings revenue. For each of these fisheries, we tested whether diversification levels, trends, and variation in fishing revenues changed after implementation of catch shares, both for fishers that remained in the catch share fishery and for those that exited but remained active in other fisheries. We found that diversification for both groups was nearly always reduced. However, in most cases, we found no significant change in interannual variation of revenues, and, where changes were significant, variation decreased nearly as often as it increased.
At a time of increasing disconnectedness from nature, scientific interest in the potential health benefits of nature contact has grown. Research in recent decades has yielded substantial evidence, but large gaps remain in our understanding.
We propose a research agenda on nature contact and health, identifying principal domains of research and key questions that, if answered, would provide the basis for evidence-based public health interventions.
We identify research questions in seven domains: a) mechanistic biomedical studies; b) exposure science; c) epidemiology of health benefits; d) diversity and equity considerations; e) technological nature; f) economic and policy studies; and g) implementation science.
Nature contact may offer a range of human health benefits. Although much evidence is already available, much remains unknown. A robust research effort, guided by a focus on key unanswered questions, has the potential to yield high-impact, consequential public health insights.
This paper examines the development and effects of a rapid livelihood transition on households, and reflects on how it fits within historic trends of livelihood change for people living in highly variable and vulnerable environments. It also discusses the implications of livelihood dynamism for local governance of natural resources. In recent decades, seaweed cultivation has expanded exponentially in coastal communities across the Asia-Pacific. A case study is presented of a remote small-island community in eastern Indonesia where over the last ten years a dramatic shift in livelihood focus has occurred. Previous dependence on diverse low-productivity livelihood activities transitioned to a predominant focus on seaweed farming. The case shows how social, economic and cultural environments co-develop as people move out of conditions of collective poverty and into more nuclear household-oriented livelihood activities. Specific attention is given to the influence on a marine resource co-management program operating on the island to illustrate how local livelihood dynamics relate to broader paradigm-driven conservation and rural development initiatives. While alternative livelihood programs seek to relieve pressure on resource stocks and provide opportunities for coastal people, this case study provides timely insights into the kinds of unintended effects, trends and impacts that are associated with rapid change in the way people make a living. This study argues that, in addition to achieving higher standards of income and well-being, livelihood improvement interventions need to adequately ensure that conditions under which new livelihood arrangements come to function can be maintained locally.
•Examines moral economies of commercial and recreational fishers.
•Moral economy discourses stem from material interactions with fishery resources and historical development patterns.
•Fishers have divergent definitions of value, waste, and public resources.
•Fisher moral economies have the potential to be encoded in fisheries policies, affecting material access to resources.