A comparative appraisal of the resilience of marine social-ecological systems to mass mortalities of bivalves

In many parts of the world, both wild and cultured populations of bivalves have been struck by mass mortality episodes because of climatic and anthropogenic stressors whose causes and consequences are not always clearly understood. Such outbreaks have resulted in a range of responses from the social (fishers or farmers) and governing systems. We analyzed six commercial bivalve industries affected by mass mortalities using I-ADApT, a decision support framework to assess the impacts and consequences of these perturbations on the natural, social, and governing systems, and the consequent responses of stakeholders to these events. We propose a multidimensional resilience framework to assess resilience along the natural, social, and governing axes and to compare adaptive responses and their likelihood of success. The social capital and governability of the local communities were key factors affecting the communities’ resilience and adaptation to environmental changes, but the rapid degradation of natural ecosystems puts the bivalve industry under a growing threat. Bivalve mariculture and fishing industries are likely to experience increased frequency, severity, and prevalence of such mass mortality events if the resilience of the natural systems is not improved. An understanding of previous adaptation processes can inform strategies for building adaptive capacity to future events.

Patrice Guillotreau, Edward H. Allison, Alida Bundy, Sarah R. Cooley, Omar Defeo, Véronique Le Bihan, Sophie Pardo, R. Ian Perry, George Santopietro and Tetsuo Seki, Ecology and Society, 22 (1) : 46, 2017

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