New NSF project to study social-ecological linkages in coastal Mexico

Photo credit: S. Walsh

Functioning coastal and marine ecosystems produce a wide array of benefits to society, including food production, protection from coastal storms, and opportunities for recreation and tourism. Stewardship to ensure continued provision of these benefits requires understanding the connections between ecosystems and the people who are part of them.

Brown junior faculty Heather Leslie and Sri Nagavarpu just received funding from the US National Science Foundation to explore the interplay between key ecological, economic, and institutional processes related to small-scale fisheries in Mexico’s Gulf of California. Initial support for this project was provided by The David and Lucile Packard Foundation and Brown’s Environmental Change Initiative.

To sustain fisheries in the gulf, a variety of management tools are under consideration, including marine reserves and other marine protected areas, catch shares, and territorial use rights. Moreover, the expected decentralization of fisheries management due to the recently amended Fisheries Law is anticipated to alter both ecological and socioeconomic dynamics within the region.

Previous scholarship focused on the gulf and other areas with low governance, enforcement, and monitoring capacity often has emphasized ecological or institutional dynamics, but rarely has integrated ecological, economic, and institutional analyses as proposed here. Through the development of an interdisciplinary framework for understanding coastal marine environment-society connections, along with gulf-specific analyses, we will help inform development of innovative marine management strategies in this region and other coastal and marine areas worldwide.

Collaborators on the project include Octavio Aburto-Oropeza (Scripps Institution of Oceanography), Leila Sievanen (Brown University), and Sheila Walsh (The Nature Conservancy/Brown University).

To learn more, contact or see Heather’s earlier, related work in this area: Leslie, H.M., M. Schlüter, R. Cudney-Bueno, and S. A. Levin. 2009. Modeling responses of the coupled social-ecological systems of the northern Gulf of California to anthropogenic and natural perturbations. Ecological Research 24(3); 505-514.