Sixteen years of social and ecological dynamics reveal challenges and opportunities for adaptive management in sustaining the commons

Cinner, J.E., Lau, J.D., Bauman, A.G., Feary, D.A., Januchowski-Hartley, F.A., Rojas, C.A., Barnes, M.L., Bergseth, B.J., Shum, E., Lahari, R., Ben, J., and Graham, N.A.J. (2019) Sixteen years of social and ecological dynamics reveal challenges and opportunities for adaptive management in sustaining the commons. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 116 (52). pp. 26474-26483.

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Coral reefs provide ecosystem goods and services for millions of people, but reef health is declining worldwide and current approaches have failed to prevent losses. Adaptive approaches that reflect local social, economic, and cultural conditions are required. We conducted social and ecological research across 5 time intervals over 16 y to study the key traits of a long-enduring customary adaptive reef management system in Papua New Guinea. Resource users identified high levels of compliance, strong leadership and social cohesion, and participatory decision making among community members as key traits of a rotational fisheries closure system, which increases fish biomass and makes fish less wary (hence more catchable), relative to openly fished areas.Efforts to confront the challenges of environmental change and uncertainty include attempts to adaptively manage social–ecological systems. However, critical questions remain about whether adaptive management can lead to sustainable outcomes for both ecosystems and society. Here, we make a contribution to these efforts by presenting a 16-y analysis of ecological outcomes and perceived livelihood impacts from adaptive coral reef management in Papua New Guinea. The adaptive management system we studied was a customary rotational fisheries closure system (akin to fallow agriculture), which helped to increase the biomass of reef fish and make fish less wary (more catchable) relative to openly fished areas. However, over time the amount of fish in openly fished reefs slowly declined. We found that, overall, resource users tended to have positive perceptions about this system, but there were negative perceptions when fishing was being prohibited. We also highlight some of the key traits of this adaptive management system, including 1) strong social cohesion, whereby leaders played a critical role in knowledge exchange; 2) high levels of compliance, which was facilitated via a “carrot-and-stick” approach that publicly rewarded good behavior and punished deviant behavior; and 3) high levels of participation by community actors.

Item ID: 61388
Item Type: Article (Research - C1)
ISSN: 1091-6490
Keywords: social-ecological system; adaptive management; coral reef; customary management; fisheries
Copyright Information: © 2019 the Author(s). Published by PNAS. This open access article is distributed under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License 4.0 (CC BY-NC-ND).
Funders: Australian Research Council (ARC), Pew Charitable Trust, Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, CGIAR Trust Fund, National Geographic, David and Lucile Packard Foundation, Australian Research Council (ARC), Royal Society University Research Fellowship (RSURF)
Projects and Grants: ARC CE140100020, ARC FT160100047, ARC DP110101540, ARC DP0877905, ARC DE190101583, RSURF UF140691
Research Data:
Date Deposited: 22 Jan 2020 01:29
FoR Codes: 41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410406 Natural resource management @ 34%
41 ENVIRONMENTAL SCIENCES > 4104 Environmental management > 410401 Conservation and biodiversity @ 33%
44 HUMAN SOCIETY > 4404 Development studies > 440499 Development studies not elsewhere classified @ 33%
SEO Codes: 96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960503 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Coastal and Estuarine Environments @ 50%
96 ENVIRONMENT > 9605 Ecosystem Assessment and Management > 960507 Ecosystem Assessment and Management of Marine Environments @ 50%
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