Feedback loops in marine protection | UCSB
When it comes to shared resources, management often comes from the top down. But recent research shows that the participation and empowerment of communities that depend on these resources in an iterative process is essential for successful management.
The inclusion of these stakeholders will be crucial in realizing the growing global movement to protect 30% of the ocean by 2030. At present, more than 70 countries are supporting the “30×30” campaign, as are a multitude of organizations. non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and surrounding communities. the world. Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are one of the main conservation tools to achieve this goal, and there is a growing need to explore and understand MPA management strategies and models.
Research co-led by Anastasia (Tasha) Quintana at UC Santa Barbara and Alfredo Giron-Nava at Stanford University investigated feedback loops for community conservation in northwestern Mexico.
Their results suggest that adaptation, learning and trust within fishing communities contribute to a larger and increasing impact – positive feedback loops – for fisheries conservation and management. The article, published in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science, is part of an issue focusing on the work of early career researchers.
“We have tried to build an interdisciplinary collaboration where the ideas of a social scientist and a natural scientist can work in harmony,” said Giron-Nava, Hoffmann member of the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions.
“This is an example of how an increasingly interdisciplinary community of young researchers can break down some of the scientific silos that have been around for some time and approach problems in a different way,” he said.
The fishing communities of Baja California, Mexico, have designed and renewed a network of temporary no-fishing refuges, aimed at replenishing fisheries. Qualitative interviews with fishermen revealed a range of perceptions regarding the design of refuges.
“For the fishermen, they are trying to make a living. Long-term conservation of the fishery is in line with their goals, but they are much less committed to the concept of a strict MPA or the concept of marine reserves, ”said Quintana, National Science Foundaton postdoctoral researcher at UCSB’s Marine Science. Institute.
“In the case of the refugios, they were able to develop a fluid conceptualization of who they are and take control of their fisheries,” she said.
The team developed a conceptual model that takes into account both social and ecological factors. This provided a better understanding of the factors that contributed to the success of a fishing refuge.
“For the communities that had the biggest designs – with the biggest and most ambitious MPAs […] and it even widened in the second iteration – the common characteristic was that they had a strong leader, ”Giron-Nava said. “We learned that strong leadership is the key to successfully implementing ambitious plans.”
While strong leadership, trust, and empowerment in a community can benefit the design of the MPA, the model also predicts negative feedback loops and the risk of declining trust. The authors wish to explore these factors to better understand when and how loops break as well as how to promote confidence if an MPA falls into a downward spiral.
As the researchers explained, MPAs can serve as dynamic tools for the management and conservation of fisheries, areas that can adapt to climate change and changing needs.
Importantly, an adaptive management process can prioritize the participation of fishing communities. Small-scale fishermen bring global and intergenerational knowledge of their oceanic and coastal ecosystems, which feeds their leadership in participatory management processes.
“There is this idea of biosphere managers, which is the idea that the people who depend on a resource are the closest to the ground and the most invested,” said Quintana. “Policymakers who want to protect the ocean should seriously think about how they can empower fishermen, as stewards of the biosphere, to protect their own seas.”