Research News > Operationalizing Ostrom's SES framework

Understanding the sustainability of small-scale fisheries as coupled social-ecological systems through a comparative analysis in Baja California Sur, Mexico.

Comparing the sustainability of different places in a rigorous and repeatable manner presents many challenges. Tackled head on in a recent paper by Heather Leslie and colleagues, co-author Xavier Basurto says "Our paper in PNAS is a first stab at operationalizing Ostrom's social-ecological systems in a spatially explicit, quantitative and qualitative manner. Here, we use the case of small-scale fisheries in Baja California Sur, Mexico, to identify distinct SES regions and test key aspects of coupled SESs theory. Regions that exhibit greater potential for social-ecological sustainability in one dimension do not necessarily exhibit it in other, highlighting the importance of integrative, coupled systems analyses when implementing spatial planning and other ecosystem-based strategies."

The significance of the paper is summarized in the following excerpt:

Meeting human needs while sustaining ecosystems and the benefits they provide is a global challenge. Coastal marine systems present a particularly important case, given that >50% of the world's population lives within 100 km of the coast and fisheries are the primary source of protein for >1 billion people worldwide. Our integrative analysis here yields an understanding of the sustainability of coupled social-ecological systems that is quite distinct from that provided by either the biophysical or the social sciences alone and that illustrates the feasibility and value of operationalizing the social-ecological systems framework for comparative analyses of coupled systems, particularly in data-poor and developing nation settings.

More information:

Citation: Heather M. Leslie, Xavier Basurto, Mateja Nenadovic, Leila Sievanen, Kyle C. Cavanaugh, Juan José Cota-Nieto, Brad E. Erisman, Elena Finkbeiner, Gustavo Hinojosa-Arango, Marcia Moreno-Báez,Sriniketh Nagavarapu, Sheila M. W. Reddy, Alexandra Sánchez-Rodríguez, Katherine Siegel, José Juan Ulibarria-Valenzuela, Amy Hudson Weaver, and Octavio Aburto-Oropeza. Operationalizing the social-ecological systems framework to assess sustainability PNAS 2015 112 (19) 5979-5984; published ahead of print April 27, 2015, doi:10.1073/pnas.1414640112