Photo: M. Troell
This theme aims to provide a broader and deeper understanding of the resilience and dynamics of marine social-ecological systems
Research within the marine theme looks at the dynamics of the marine social-ecological systems, and how they are connected to and shaped by processes acting at local and global scales. Research includes both tropical systems around Australia, Hawaii, the East coast of Africa and South East Asia, as well as temperate systems like the Baltic Sea.
Important research areas include:
- the dynamics of marine ecological feedbacks and regime shifts
- the management capacity of society and institutions
- emerging challenges
- exploring alternatives for sustainable development pathways
Topics include, for example, coral reef dynamics, governance of global, regional, national and local fisheries, sustainability of aquaculture, marine food web dynamics, social-ecological health assessments, and management implications of global trade dynamics and geopolitics.
The theme uses theories and methodological approaches from both natural science and social science. It critically seeks to improve and extend its analytic toolbox by continuously developing new transdisciplinary methodological frameworks. Researchers within the theme collaborate closely with several other themes at the Centre and leading international research institutes around the world, including Princeton and Stanford Universities, and the University of British Columbia.
Research news | 2015-01-09
Centre researchers in latest issue of Science: "China's aquaculture can tip the balance in world fish supplies"
Research news | 2015-01-08
Algae-eating fish are key to avoiding regime shifts of Hawaiian coral reefs, study finds
Research news | 2014-12-17
How the rise and fall of the Soviet Union contributed to marine regime shifts and a transition in governance.
Research news | 2014-11-29
Centre researchers look into forced resilience of intensive agriculture, forestry, fisheries and aquaculture systems
Research news | 2014-11-24
Eleven Centre researchers contribute to a new global scientific synthesis on marine regime shifts .
Research news | 2014-09-11
Farming of bluefin tuna is increasing, but official estimates are far below actual production
2015 - Journal / article
Predicting growth is critical in aquaculture, but models of growth are largely missing for mud crab species. Here, we present the first model of natural growth in juvenile and adult mud crabs Scylla serrata from East Africa using a stepwise growth function based on data on intermoult periods and growth at moult from field mark-recapture, pond and laboratory studies. The results showed a sigmoid growth pattern in carapace width and suggest that S. serrata in East Africa will reach 300 g and sexual maturity ~9.9 months after settlement, and a commercial size of 500 g after 12.4 months. Analyses of the literature identified several issues with the common praxis to compare standard growth measures between aquaculture studies with different initial size or growing periods. Using the new growth function to estimate the proportional difference between modelled and obtained growth as an alternative method, we show that growth rates of S. serrata cultured in cage systems, which are dominant in East Africa, was <40% of the estimated natural growth and growth obtained in pond systems. The analysis also indicated that growth rates of S. serrata in Southeast Asia was over 50% higher compared with similar culture systems in East Africa, and that different species of mud crabs had large differences in growth rates. This study shows that growth in the present mud crab aquaculture systems in East Africa is below their expected potential. Further work is needed to identify the factors behind this observation.
2015 - Journal / article
This theme issue ‘Marine regime shifts around the globe: theory, drivers and impacts’ has the goal to make a step change towards a more unified understanding of regime shifts in marine ecosystems. Towards this purpose we define ecological regime shifts as ‘dramatic, abrupt changes in the community structure that are persistent in time, encompassing multiple variables, and including key structural species—independently from the mechanisms causing them’. Our definition deliberately includes regime-like changes without evidence of multiple alternative stable states (or multiple basins of attraction), as we think emphasis on this theoretical aspect often hinders progress in considering abrupt changes in marine ecosystem-based management. Our definition is hence more practical for marine management purposes and can be used for both benthic and pelagic regime shifts, even where the link with the mathematical theory is not yet fully established. This special issue brings together experts from different marine science disciplines and trophic level expertise (i.e. benthic ecology, pelagic ecology, fisheries, marine conservation and management), from diverse marine ecosystems, and from a mixture of geographical areas around the globe. More than 80 authors from six continents have contributed to the 16 papers in this issue, around the following themes: (i) advances in marine regime shift theory, (ii) drivers of marine regime shifts and (iii) management of marine regime shifts.
2015 - Journal / article
Modeling social-ecological interactions between humans and ecosystems to analyze their implications for sustainable management of social-ecological systems (SES) has multiple challenges. When integrating social and ecological dynamics, which are often studied separately, one has to deal with different modeling paradigms, levels of analysis, temporal and spatial scales, and data availabilities in the social and ecological domains. A major challenge, for instance, is linking the emergent patterns from individual micro-level human decisions to system level processes such as reinforcing feedbacks determining the state of the ecosystem. We propose building a hybrid model that combines a system dynamics with an agent-based approach to address some of these challenges. In particular, we present a procedure for model development and analysis that successively builds up complexity and understanding of model dynamics, particular with respect to feedbacks between the social and ecological system components. The proposed steps allow for a systematic increase of the coupling between the submodels and building confidence in the model before deploying it to study the coupled dynamics. The procedure consists of steps for (i) specifying the characteristics of the link between the social and ecological systems, (ii) validating the decoupled submodels, (iii) doing sensitivity analysis of the decoupled submodels with respect to the drivers from the respective other subsystem and, finally (iv) analyzing the coupled model. We illustrate the procedure and discuss opportunities and limitations of hybrid models against the background of an archetypical SES case study, namely the restoration of a turbid lake. Our approach exemplifies how a hybrid model is used to unpack SES complexity and analyze interactions between ecological dynamics and micro-level human actions. We discuss the benefits and challenges of combining a system dynamics models as an aggregated view with an agent-based model as a disaggregated view to improve social-ecological system understanding.
2015 - Journal / article
Here, we synthesize conceptual frameworks, applied modeling approaches, and as case studies to highlight complex social-ecological system (SES) dynamics that inform environmental policy, conservation and management. Although a set of “good practices” about what constitutes a good SES study are emerging, there is still a disconnection between generating SES scientific studies and providing decision-relevant information to policy makers. Classical single variable/hypothesis studies rooted in one or two disciplines are still most common, leading to incremental growth in knowledge about the natural or social system, but rarely both. The recognition of human dimensions is a key aspect of successful planning and implementation in natural resource management, ecosystem-based management, fisheries management, and marine conservation. The lack of social data relating to human-nature interactions in this particular context is now seen as an omission, which can often erode the efficacy of any resource management or conservation action. There have been repeated calls for a transdisciplinary approach to complex SESs that incorporates resilience, complexity science characterized by intricate feedback interactions, emergent processes, non-linear dynamics and uncertainty. To achieve this vision, we need to embrace diverse research methodologies that incorporate ecology, sociology, anthropology, political science, economics and other disciplines that are anchored in empirical data. We conclude that to make SES research most useful in adding practical value to conservation planning, marine resource management planning processes and implementation, and the integration of resilience thinking into adaptation strategies, more research is needed on (1) understanding social-ecological landscapes and seascapes and patterns that would ensure planning process legitimacy, (2) costs of transformation (financial, social, environmental) to a stable resilient social-ecological system, (3) overcoming place-based data collection challenges as well as modeling challenges.
SPACES aims to understand the complex relationship between ecosystem services and the wellbeing of the poor in coastal Kenya and Mozambique. Read more here