Social-Ecological Dynamics of Recreational Fishery Landscapes

Fisheries are classic examples of tightly coupled natural-human systems, and have high cultural and economic value in North America and around the world. They are thus useful model systems for testing and developing social-ecological theory, and important venues for real-world application of such theory. In lake districts and other recreational fishery landscapes, network effects within and between the social and ecological systems emerge from the high abundance and density of water bodies on the landscape and their resulting importance to local economies. Recreational fishery landscapes are moving, or could move, from a traditional top-down management structure in which government agencies rely on panaceas, towards multi-level adaptive co-management. This transition is being led by the emergence of local governance in the form of lake associations and similar groups, and simultaneously driven by the declining budgets and capacity of many government resource management agencies.

Social-ecological theory suggests that multi-level adaptive co-management can increase social and ecological resilience and lead to better management outcomes. In practice, however, the complex social-ecological dynamics of recreational fisheries, which are set within interacting geographic and social networks and subject to interacting drivers at multiple time scales, may pose significant challenges to effective management. In this project we are exploring the dynamics of recreational fishery social-ecological landscapes, with a focus on identifying pathways and obstacles for effective multi-level adaptive co-management of these systems, and on testing and extending social-ecological theory more generally.

Cary Institute of Ecosystem Studies | Millbrook, New York 12545 | Tel (845) 677-5343

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