Socioeconomic Assessment & Monitoring

Wakatobi National Park, Southeast Sulawesi, Indonesia. Photo © Marthen Welly/TNC-CTC

People and coral reef ecosystems are inextricably linked: the ecosystem provides important services to local communities and industries, and ecosystem health is strongly influenced by human activities. Understanding these linkages is crucial for effective management of coral reefs. Socioeconomic assessment and monitoring provides the knowledge that underpins good management decisions.

Fishers in Manus, Papua New Guinea rely on fish harvested from coral reef ecosystems for food and livelihoods. Photo © Simon Foale

Socioeconomic assessment and monitoring provides information on the social, cultural, economic and political conditions of individuals, households, groups, communities and organizations. In the context of coral reef ecosystems, socioeconomic assessment and monitoring can be used to determine historical and current patterns of use, values, resource-dependency, and perceptions of reef management. When managers have that information, they can predict the social and economic implications of management actions taken to limit or influence reef visitation and use or actions that limit or influence activities on land that affect reef condition. Specific topics that are examined in socioeconomic assessments and monitoring include:

  • Coastal and marine resource use patterns
  • Stakeholder demographic characteristics
  • Perceptions and attitudes toward resources, management and change
  • Governance including transparency, equity
  • Traditional knowledge
  • Co-management and stewardship of reefs/reef resources
  • Values of extractive and non-extractive reef uses
  • Social vulnerability (resource dependency and adaptive capacity)
  • Gender specific activities related to coastal and marine resources


What is the difference between assessment and monitoring?

While a socioeconomic assessment is a one-time data collection effort, socioeconomic monitoring involves repeated data collection over time, usually at set intervals. Socioeconomic assessments conducted at the start of a project can help managers to understand the site and establish baseline information. Monitoring that follows the initial assessment can measure socioeconomic changes over time, monitor trends, help identify whether management objectives are being met, and identify steps needed for adaptive management.

Socioeconomic assessments and monitoring can provide information essential for adaptive management, such as trends and changes in coastal activities and people’s perceptions about coral reef condition and management. Such information can help identify threats or problems, and can be used as a basis for developing solutions to conflicts among resource users. Socioeconomic information can also be used to determine the importance, cultural significance and value of coral reef resources and their uses. For example, by knowing the number of people that use a specific area for fishing, managers can predict how many fishers may be affected by the creation of no take zones. Finally, collecting socioeconomic information can be used to involve stakeholders in the management process.

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