Masking environmental feedback : Misfits between institutions and ecosystems in Belize and Thailand

Sammanfattning: The thesis analyses relationships between ecological and social systems in the context of coastal ecosystems. It examines human impacts from resource extraction and addresses management and governance behind resource exploitation. The main premises are that a lack of ecological knowledge leads to poor ecosystem management and that the dichotomy between social and natural systems is an artificial one. The thesis illustrates the importance of basing resource management on the ecological conditions of the resource and its ecosystem. It also demonstrates the necessity of accounting for the human dimension in ecosystem management and the challenges of organising human actions for sustainable use of ecosystem services in the face of economic incentives that push users towards short-term extraction.Many Caribbean coral reefs have undergone a shift from coral to macroalgal domination. An experiment on Glovers Reef Atoll in Belize manually cleared patch reefs in a no-take zone and a fished zone (Papers I and II). The study hypothesised that overfishing has reduced herbivorous fish populations that control macroalgae growth. Overall, management had no significant effect on fish abundance and the impacts of the algal reduction were short-lived. This illustrated that the benefits of setting aside marine reserves in impacted environments should not be taken for granted. Papers III and IV studied the development of the lobster and conch fisheries in Belize, and the shrimp farming industry in Thailand respectively. These studies found that environmental feedback can be masked to give the impression of resource abundance through sequential exploitation. In both cases inadequate property rights contributed to this unsustainable resource use. The final paper (V) compared the responses to changes in the resource by the lobster fisheries in Belize and Maine in terms of institutions, organisations and their role in management. In contrast to Maine’s, the Belize system seems to lack social mechanisms for responding effectively to environmental feedback. The results illustrate the importance of organisational and institutional diversity that incorporate ecological knowledge, respond to ecosystem feedback and provide a social context for learning from and adapting to change.