Managing for Social Resilience

Philippines. Photo © TNC
a coastal community

Building the resilience of coastal communities requires an understanding of how they interact with the marine environment, and how they cope with and adapt to social, political, environmental, and economic change. Photo © Shara Kilarski, Koh Lanta, Thailand

Increasingly, coral reef management aims to protect not just biodiversity, but also to maintain the provision of ecosystem services to society. However, many management decisions involve tradeoffs, either between environmental and social goals, or among different social values or sectors. Understanding the impacts of different options on the communities and industries that depend on reefs has become an important goal for reef managers.

Social resilience ref provides a useful concept for helping reef managers to understand the ability of a community or sector to cope with and adapt to changes in coral reef ecosystem health, or changes in the rules that govern the way they interact with the reef. In some instances, managers are working closely with reef users to build their resilience as a foundation for management outcomes that achieve biodiversity conservation goals while minimizing social impacts (or maximizing social benefits).

fishermen with net

Identification of resilience-building strategies requires an assessment of the social situation and resource-dependence of communities. Photo © Joshua Cinner ARC Center of Excellence/Marine Photobank

Managers may find the following steps helpful when working with communities to understand and support social resilience: ref

  • Identify communities and sectors that depend on goods and services from coral reefs and also those who are causing impacts to the coral reef ecosystem
  • Characterize the nature and strength of dependencies on the coral reef system
  • Assess the implications of predicted ecosystem and institutional (regulations, policies, etc) changes for dependent communities and sectors
  • Explore adaptation options
  • Identify strategies that can simultaneously build social and ecological resilience
  • Support efforts to build adaptive capacity

Coral reef managers can benefit from partnerships with social scientists in designing and implementing social resilience programs. A familiarity with social resilience and associated tools can help managers integrate social considerations into management programs.

A range of resources is available to guide efforts to build social resilience. These include tools for assessing and monitoring social conditions, such as SocMonref  SLED,ref resources for understanding social resilience and assessing vulnerability, ref and guides for exploring adaptation options. ref

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