Marine & Environmental Sciences Faculty Articles
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 (PNAS)
Social-Ecological System, Adaptive Management, Coral Reef, Customary Management, Fisheries
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.
J.E.C. is supported by the Australian Research Council (CE140100020, FT160100047, DP110101540, and DP0877905), the Pew Charitable Trust, and the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation. This work was undertaken as part of the Consultative Group for International Agricultural Research (CGIAR) Research Program on Fish Agri-Food Systems (FISH) led by WorldFish. The program is supported by contributors to the CGIAR Trust Fund. J.E.C. also received funding from National Geographic. The 2001 data were supported by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. M.L.B. is supported through a fellowship awarded by the Australian Research Council (DE190101583). N.A.J.G. is supported through a Royal Society University Research Fellowship (UF140691).
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Josh Eli Cinner, J. D. Lau, Andrew G. Bauman, David A. Feary, Fraser A. Januchowski-Hartley, C. A. Rojas, M. L. Barnes, B. J. Bergseth, E. Shum, R. Lahari, J. Ben, and N. A. J. Graham. 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 (PNAS) , (52) : 26474 -26483. https://nsuworks.nova.edu/occ_facarticles/1287.
Data deposition: Fish abundance and behavior, and the benthic cover data reported in this paper have been deposited at James Cook University’s Tropical Research Hub, https://research.jcu.edu.au/researchdata/default/detail/52061788ee1b2f094195e18ca91d2634/.