Social-ecological complexity in common pool resource use: Social foraging and management action in fisheries

CEES Extra Seminar by Matthieu Barbier and Emily Klein from Princeton University. 


Insight into human behavior and decision making within the context of complex social and ecological systems is critical for understanding and managing resource use. This is especially true in the oceans, where we are globally depleting resources at alarming rates. These resources are vital for human livelihoods and food security, and may change rapidly in a future of climate change and increased human needs. Here, we developed a theoretical agent-based model of fishermen behavior, using insight from qualitative interviews with fishing communities on the US West Coast to inform model structure and driving questions. With this model, we studied how fishermen are influenced along three social-ecological system (SES) dimensions: social behavior, target species ecology, and management action. Outcomes were also evaluated on several scales - harvesting efficiency, time variability and inequity between users – to provide multiple measure of management success and assess social-ecological feedbacks. Abstracting users as optimizing agents, we thus obtained a theoretical "null model" which captures a significant amount of the observed variability in resource use settings. However, some dramatic contrasts in the qualitative data from our interviews cannot be accounted for without considering how the agents' goals themselves were shaped by communities and management. We propose that modeling such dynamics may alleviate some conceptual limitations of the rational choice framework and reconcile it with other concepts and results from the social sciences.

Matthieu Barbier and Emily Klein

Levin Lab

Princeton University

Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology

Princeton, NJ 

Published Apr. 30, 2015 3:56 PM - Last modified Oct. 14, 2016 10:27 AM