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Ecosystem size predicts social-ecological dynamics

Mark A. Kaemingk, Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit; School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA
Christopher J. Chizinski, School of Natural Resources, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA
Craig R. Allen, U.S. Geological Survey, Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA
Kevin L. Pope, U.S. Geological Survey, Nebraska Cooperative Fish and Wildlife Research Unit, University of Nebraska, Lincoln, Nebraska, USA

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5751/ES-10961-240217

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Abstract

Recreational fisheries are complex adaptive systems that are inherently difficult to manage because of heterogeneous user groups (consumptive vs. nonconsumptive) that use patchily distributed resources on the landscape (lakes, rivers, coastlines). There is a need to identify which system components can effectively predict and be used to manage nonlinear and cross-scale dynamics within these systems. We examine how ecosystem size or water body size can be used to explain complicated and elusive angler-resource dynamics in recreational fisheries. Water body size determined angler behavior among 48 Nebraska, U.S.A. water bodies during an 11-year study. Angler behavior was often unique and nonlinear across water body sizes. For example, anglers spent more time fishing and harvested more fish at larger water bodies compared to smaller water bodies. Time fished increased across smaller water bodies, but reached a threshold at larger water bodies. The number of fish released increased as a function of water body size across smaller water bodies and then plateaued. Subtle changes in water body size caused abrupt changes in angler behavior, that is, water body size structures angler-resource dynamics in recreational fisheries. We believe that including water body size, a simple and easily measured metric, in fisheries management will increase effectiveness of cross-scale actions and minimize unintended consequences for recreational fisheries. Applying uniform management actions, e.g., harvest regulations, across small and large water bodies may elicit contrasting angler-resource responses. Water body size may also be useful for understanding angler typologies. Based on our findings, we expect that ecosystem size is a prominent and valuable system component that will determine and explain coupled user-resource dynamics in other complex adaptive systems.

Key words

angler behavior; complex adaptive systems; cross-scale interactions; discontinuity hypothesis; recreational fisheries; social-ecological systems

Copyright © 2019 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article  is under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License.  You may share and adapt the work for noncommercial purposes provided the original author and source are credited, you indicate whether any changes were made, and you include a link to the license.

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Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087