SOCIAL ECOLOGICAL SYSTEMS

13 January 2021, 10 am CET

Human society vitally depends on the health and condition of marine ecosystems. The oceans and in particular coastal regions provide us with a variety of ecosystem services such as the provision of food and medical compounds, flood and storm protection as well as leisure opportunities. In the marine realm, human-nature interactions can take a multitude of forms, including fisheries, tourism, and aquaculture among others. Through all of these elements, social systems and marine environments are intimately linked with each other.

Sustainability science and practices are increasingly applying a social-ecological lens to tackle the conservation and development challenges of the 21st century, such as climate change. As a novel scientific discipline, social-ecological research is prominently shaped and promoted by a generation of Early Career Researchers (ECRs). Due to its inherent inter- and transdisciplinary nature, the establishment of this novel branch of research entails several challenges. Acknowledging and discussing the potential as well as limitations of social-ecological research is a key factor when conducting policy-relevant research that connects environmental conservation with human well-being.

This online forum aims to discuss a variety of the benefits and limitations of social-ecological research through a series of presentations from highly talented interdisciplinary ECRs, followed by an open plenum discussion by ECRs (speakers and listeners) and “senior” scientists.

Hosted by

Speakers and Abstracts

To feed or not to feed reef fish? And what people think about it

Natalie Prinz1*

1University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand

*corresponding author: zn.ca1627856644.otak1627856644iaw@z1627856644nirp.1627856644eilat1627856644an1627856644

Feeding wild animals is a regular habit in ecotourism worldwide with poorly known consequences for the ecosystem. In this study we investigated how effective bread feeding is at attracting coral reef fish in the Aitutaki lagoon, Cook Islands, and what people think of this practice. We evaluated which feeding groups of fish are most attracted, and how natural foraging rates of an omnivorous and a grazing-detritivorous fish are affected. Data were collected at sites where fish are regularly fed bread by snorkellers and at comparison sites where bread was only provided for this study, within the lagoon. The fish community was censused and foraging rates of two model species (Chaetodon auriga, Ctenochaetus striatus) were quantified one hour before, during, and an hour after feeding events. Overall, twenty-five percent of the species present at all sites (mainly piscivores-invertivores) were effectively attracted to bread and mean fish density was higher at tourism feeding sites than at the comparison sites. During bread feeding events, taxonomic richness decreased, compared to the hours prior and after feeding across all sites. In conjunction to the ecological results we posed the question, why do we feed fish? To investigate the perception on feeding reef fish with bread, stakeholder interviews were conducted. The questionnaires revealed that local stakeholders favour feeding to sustain tourist satisfaction and provide them with the best possible experience. Tourists in contrast appreciated snorkelling regardless of artificial feeding. This indicates an opportunity for restrictions on fish feeding with minimal drawbacks for tourism. In the face of the current travel restrictions to many Pacific Island States and Territories the amount of bread fed to fish may have declined, which provides opportunities for further investigations. The social-ecological approach helped in understanding the underlying values and motivations of different stakeholders which may be united in future legislations on protecting the Aitutaki lagoon.

Literature: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmars.2020.00145/full

On the move: The role of mobility and migration as a coping strategy for resource users after abrupt environmental disturbance – the empirical example of the Coastal El Niño 2017

Lotta Clara Kluger1,2*

1Center for Ocean and Society (CeOS), Neufeldtstr. 10, D-24118 Kiel

2Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT), WG Resource Management, Fahrenheitstr. 8, D-28359 Bremen

*corresponding author: ed.tm1627856644z-zin1627856644biel@1627856644regul1627856644k.att1627856644ol1627856644

Individual mobility – moving between and within different geographic regions – represents an adaptation strategy of natural resource users worldwide to cope with sudden and gradual changes in resource abundances. This work traces the recent history of Peruvian small-scale fishers’ migration, and particularly analyses the spatial mobility patterns of resource users along the Peruvian coastline in the aftermath of the coastal El Niño 2017. In February-March 2017, this event caused extraordinary heavy rains and a rise in water temperatures along the coast of northern Peru, inducing negative consequences for the small-scale fisheries and scallop (Argopecten purpuratus) aquaculture sectors, both representing important socio-economic activities in the region. Responses of local resource users to these changes were highly diverse, with a great number of people leaving the region in search for work in fishing and non-fishing activities. With a particular emphasis on the province of Sechura, this work attempts to shed light on how and why migration flows differ for fishers and scallop farmers and to explore future pathways in the context of post-disturbance recovery. About one year after the disturbance event, the small-scale fishery operated almost on a regular scale, while the aquaculture sector still struggled towards pre-El Niño conditions, reflected, for example, in a higher percentage of persons engaging in other economic activities within and outside the region. The results of this study demonstrate the importance of human movement and trans-local social networks emerging in moments of crisis and should be considered for future development of long-term management strategies incorporating increasing interconnectedness of places on different scales in the face of future disturbance events. Understanding adaptation strategies of resource users in this particular social-ecological setting will further serve to inform other coastal systems prone to (re-occurring) environmental change by highlighting the diversity of socio-economic and natural drivers that can stipulate mobility and affect adaptive capacity of resource users.

An Action Research Approach to a Wicked Situation in Coastal Management in Sri Lanka

Julia Jung1*

1Ghent University, Marine Biology Research group, Krijgslaan 281/S8, 9000 Ghent, Belgium

*corresponding author: moc.l1627856644iamg@1627856644naeco1627856644udejj1627856644

Accelerating anthropogenic impacts create increasing stress for coastal and marine social-ecological systems that can lead to wicked problems. Addressing these problems requires alternative approaches based on systems thinking and critical reflection, such as action research. This study used an action research approach to investigate a wicked situation in coastal management in a community in Sri Lanka that has experienced drastic environmental change during the last 20 years. Four action cycles using a combination of methods were used throughout the research process and revealed that degradation of the physical environment has also created amplifying feedback loops with negative consequences on social cohesion. Community practices to increase social cohesion were identified and shared with local decision-makers. The conceptual frameworks of cultural ecosystem services, relational values, Solastalgia and DPSIR were examined in their use as communication or analytical tools for addressing this situation. While they all have different advantages and disadvantages, using an action research approach allows a flexible integration of those frameworks. Action research is recommended as an approach for early-career ocean scientists as it can help them develop crucial personal skills and attributes necessary for working in transdisciplinary teams.

Can we solve the conservation puzzle with multi-stakeholder collaboration: A case study from mangrove ecosystems of the Eastern coasts of Sri Lanka

T. W. G. F. Mafaziya Nijamdeen1.2*

1University Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Belgium

2South Eastern University of Sri Lanka

*corresponding author: moc.l1627856644iamg@1627856644ayiza1627856644famam1627856644ihtaf1627856644

Sri Lanka, with its rapid economic growth after three decades of civil war, exemplifies the problems related to coastal conservation faced by many countries in the Global South. This is especially the case in Sri Lanka’s Eastern province which has seen major infrastructure investments – following the end of the civil war in 2009 and the recovery from the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. Coastal development has exacerbated erosion processes and contributed to the degradation of mangrove ecosystems. Ethnobiological surveys were carried out to understand the usage and perception of villagers adjacent to mangrove forests of the east coast, one of the most severely degraded coastal ecosystems in Sri Lanka. Stakeholders from government, private, and NGO’s directly involved in mangrove management were interviewed to know their perspectives on mangrove conservation. Mangroves were used for fuelwood, construction, medicinal, chemical, and alimentation purposes on the eastern coast. Seventy-three percent of the respondents observed a change in the coastal ecosystems and the prominent changes were increased construction in the coast, loss of vegetation, agricultural land, and coastal erosion. Furthermore, all respondents emphasized the need to protect the coast for future generations but, the adaptability to rules imposed by the government for conservation and the very slow communication between organizations were highlighted as major drawbacks in mangrove conservation.

From global goals to local action at the coast – the need for climate resilient local coastal governance and transformative change towards sustainability

Lena Rölfer1*

1Climate Service Center Germany (GERICS), Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht, Germany

*corresponding author: ed.gz1627856644h@ref1627856644leor.1627856644anel1627856644

In face of rapid societal and environmental change, several intergovernmental agreements such as the Paris Climate Agreement, Sustainable Development Goals, Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and Aichi Biodiversity Targets call for resilience. Climate resilience, in particular, is taken up in international strategies, e.g. the 2013 EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change, which aims at increasing the resilience of European coastlines to climate change. The concept of resilience offers an approach for flexible and adaptive coastal management, yet the operationalization at the local level remains challenging, especially in complex coastal systems. A variety of area-based management approaches such as Marine Spatial Planning, Integrated Coastal Zone Management and Marine Protected Areas aim at the sustainable use of coastal ecosystem services. However, recent research has highlighted a lack of integration of climate change impacts and climate adaptation planning into such management approaches. A fragmentation of management approaches is unlikely to be appropriate for achieving common goals set in intergovernmental agreements. A connection between global goals and local coastal management consequently requires a better understanding and more complete definition of coastal climate resilience at the local level encompassing the complexity of the coastal system. This presentation will provide an overview of the various concepts of climate resilience, adaptation and transformation and its connection to local coastal governance managing for sustainability.

Open plenum discussion by ECRs (speakers and guests) and “senior” scientists.

Discussion panel:

  • Lotta Clara Kluger (Center for Ocean and Society CeOS, Kiel & Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research ZMT, Bremen, Germany)
  • Natalie Prinz (University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand)
  • Lena Rölfer (Climate Service Center Germany GERICS, Geesthacht, Germany)
  • T. W. G. F. Mafaziya Nijamdeen (University Libere De Bruxelles ULB, Belgium & South Eastern University of Sri Lanka)
  • Julia Jung (Ghent University, Belgium)
  • Denis Karcher (Australian National University, Canberra, Australia)
  • Dr. Annette Breckwoldt (Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research ZMT, Bremen, Germany)
  • Dr. Sebastian Ferse (Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research ZMT, Bremen, Germany)

Videos

Introduction

Michael Kriegl & Xochitl Elias

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To feed or not to feed reef fish? And what people think about it

Natalie Prinz 1*

Vimeo

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Feeding wild animals is a regular habit in ecotourism worldwide with poorly known consequences for the ecosystem. In this study we investigated how effective bread feeding is at attracting coral reef fish in the Aitutaki lagoon, Cook Islands, and what people think of this practice. We evaluated which feeding groups of fish are most attracted, and how natural foraging rates of an omnivorous and a grazing-detritivorous fish are affected. Data were collected at sites where fish are regularly fed bread by snorkellers and at comparison sites where bread was only provided for this study, within the lagoon. The fish community was censused and foraging rates of two model species (Chaetodon auriga, Ctenochaetus striatus) were quantified one hour before, during, and an hour after feeding events. Overall, twenty-five percent of the species present at all sites (mainly piscivores-invertivores) were effectively attracted to bread and mean fish density was higher at tourism feeding sites than at the comparison sites. During bread feeding events, taxonomic richness decreased, compared to the hours prior and after feeding across all sites. In conjunction to the ecological results we posed the question, why do we feed fish? To investigate the perception on feeding reef fish with bread, stakeholder interviews were conducted. The questionnaires revealed that local stakeholders favour feeding to sustain tourist satisfaction and provide them with the best possible experience. Tourists in contrast appreciated snorkelling regardless of artificial feeding. This indicates an opportunity for restrictions on fish feeding with minimal drawbacks for tourism. In the face of the current travel restrictions to many Pacific Island States and Territories the amount of bread fed to fish may have declined, which provides opportunities for further investigations. The social-ecological approach helped in understanding the underlying values and motivations of different stakeholders which may be united in future legislations on protecting the Aitutaki lagoon.

Literature: https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fmars.2020.00145/full

 

1University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand


On the move: The role of mobility and migration as a coping strategy for resource users after abrupt environmental disturbance – the empirical example of the Coastal El Niño 2017

Lotta Clara Kluger 1,2*

Vimeo

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Individual mobility – moving between and within different geographic regions – represents an adaptation strategy of natural resource users worldwide to cope with sudden and gradual changes in resource abundances. This work traces the recent history of Peruvian small-scale fishers’ migration, and particularly analyses the spatial mobility patterns of resource users along the Peruvian coastline in the aftermath of the coastal El Niño 2017. In February-March 2017, this event caused extraordinary heavy rains and a rise in water temperatures along the coast of northern Peru, inducing negative consequences for the small-scale fisheries and scallop (Argopecten purpuratus) aquaculture sectors, both representing important socio-economic activities in the region. Responses of local resource users to these changes were highly diverse, with a great number of people leaving the region in search for work in fishing and non-fishing activities. With a particular emphasis on the province of Sechura, this work attempts to shed light on how and why migration flows differ for fishers and scallop farmers and to explore future pathways in the context of post-disturbance recovery. About one year after the disturbance event, the small-scale fishery operated almost on a regular scale, while the aquaculture sector still struggled towards pre-El Niño conditions, reflected, for example, in a higher percentage of persons engaging in other economic activities within and outside the region. The results of this study demonstrate the importance of human movement and trans-local social networks emerging in moments of crisis and should be considered for future development of long-term management strategies incorporating increasing interconnectedness of places on different scales in the face of future disturbance events. Understanding adaptation strategies of resource users in this particular social-ecological setting will further serve to inform other coastal systems prone to (re-occurring) environmental change by highlighting the diversity of socio-economic and natural drivers that can stipulate mobility and affect adaptive capacity of resource users.

 

1Center for Ocean and Society (CeOS), Neufeldtstr. 10, D-24118 Kiel
2Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT), WG Resource Management, Fahrenheitstr. 8, D-28359 Bremen


An Action Research Approach to a Wicked Situation in Coastal Management in Sri Lanka

Julia Jung 1*

Vimeo

By loading the video, you accept Vimeo's privacy policy.
More

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Accelerating anthropogenic impacts create increasing stress for coastal and marine social-ecological systems that can lead to wicked problems. Addressing these problems requires alternative approaches based on systems thinking and critical reflection, such as action research. This study used an action research approach to investigate a wicked situation in coastal management in a community in Sri Lanka that has experienced drastic environmental change during the last 20 years. Four action cycles using a combination of methods were used throughout the research process and revealed that degradation of the physical environment has also created amplifying feedback loops with negative consequences on social cohesion. Community practices to increase social cohesion were identified and shared with local decision-makers. The conceptual frameworks of cultural ecosystem services, relational values, Solastalgia and DPSIR were examined in their use as communication or analytical tools for addressing this situation. While they all have different advantages and disadvantages, using an action research approach allows a flexible integration of those frameworks. Action research is recommended as an approach for early-career ocean scientists as it can help them develop crucial personal skills and attributes necessary for working in transdisciplinary teams.

 

1Ghent University, Marine Biology Research group, Krijgslaan 281/S8, 9000 Ghent, Belgium


Can we solve the conservation puzzle with multi-stakeholder collaboration: A case study from mangrove ecosystems of the Eastern coasts of Sri Lanka

T. W. G. F. Mafaziya Nijamdeen 1.2*

Vimeo

By loading the video, you accept Vimeo's privacy policy.
More

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Sri Lanka, with its rapid economic growth after three decades of civil war, exemplifies the problems related to coastal conservation faced by many countries in the Global South. This is especially the case in Sri Lanka’s Eastern province which has seen major infrastructure investments – following the end of the civil war in 2009 and the recovery from the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004. Coastal development has exacerbated erosion processes and contributed to the degradation of mangrove ecosystems. Ethnobiological surveys were carried out to understand the usage and perception of villagers adjacent to mangrove forests of the east coast, one of the most severely degraded coastal ecosystems in Sri Lanka. Stakeholders from government, private, and NGO’s directly involved in mangrove management were interviewed to know their perspectives on mangrove conservation. Mangroves were used for fuelwood, construction, medicinal, chemical, and alimentation purposes on the eastern coast. Seventy-three percent of the respondents observed a change in the coastal ecosystems and the prominent changes were increased construction in the coast, loss of vegetation, agricultural land, and coastal erosion. Furthermore, all respondents emphasized the need to protect the coast for future generations but, the adaptability to rules imposed by the government for conservation and the very slow communication between organizations were highlighted as major drawbacks in mangrove conservation.

 

1University Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), Belgium
2South Eastern University of Sri Lanka


From global goals to local action at the coast – the need for climate resilient local coastal governance and transformative change towards sustainability

Lena Rölfer 1*

Vimeo

By loading the video, you accept Vimeo's privacy policy.
More

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In face of rapid societal and environmental change, several intergovernmental agreements such as the Paris Climate Agreement, Sustainable Development Goals, Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction and Aichi Biodiversity Targets call for resilience. Climate resilience, in particular, is taken up in international strategies, e.g. the 2013 EU Strategy on Adaptation to Climate Change, which aims at increasing the resilience of European coastlines to climate change. The concept of resilience offers an approach for flexible and adaptive coastal management, yet the operationalization at the local level remains challenging, especially in complex coastal systems. A variety of area-based management approaches such as Marine Spatial Planning, Integrated Coastal Zone Management and Marine Protected Areas aim at the sustainable use of coastal ecosystem services. However, recent research has highlighted a lack of integration of climate change impacts and climate adaptation planning into such management approaches. A fragmentation of management approaches is unlikely to be appropriate for achieving common goals set in intergovernmental agreements. A connection between global goals and local coastal management consequently requires a better understanding and more complete definition of coastal climate resilience at the local level encompassing the complexity of the coastal system. This presentation will provide an overview of the various concepts of climate resilience, adaptation and transformation and its connection to local coastal governance managing for sustainability.

 

1Climate Service Center Germany (GERICS), Helmholtz-Zentrum Geesthacht, Germany


Summary

Michael Kriegl & Xochitl Elias

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