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Coupling Biophysical and Socioeconomic Models for Coral Reef Systems in Quintana Roo, Mexican Caribbean

Jessica Melbourne-Thomas, University of Tasmania
Craig R Johnson, University of Tasmania
Pascal Perez, University of Wollongong
Jeremy Eustache, Australian National University
Elizabeth A Fulton, CSIRO Wealth from Oceans Flagship
Deborah Cleland, Australian National University


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Transdisciplinary approaches that consider both socioeconomic and biophysical processes are central to understanding and managing rapid change in coral reef systems worldwide. To date, there have been limited attempts to couple the two sets of processes in dynamic models for coral reefs, and these attempts are confined to reef systems in developed countries. We present an approach to coupling existing biophysical and socioeconomic models for coral reef systems in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo. The biophysical model is multiscale, using dynamic equations to capture local-scale ecological processes on individual reefs, with reefs connected at regional scales by the ocean transport of larval propagules. The agent-based socioeconomic model simulates changes in tourism, fisheries, and urbanization in the Quintana Roo region. Despite differences in the formulation and currencies of the two models, we were able to successfully modify and integrate them to synchronize and define information flows and feedbacks between them. A preliminary evaluation of the coupled model system indicates that the model gives reasonable predictions for fisheries and ecological variables and can be used to examine scenarios for future social–ecological change in Quintana Roo. We provide recommendations for where efforts might usefully be focused in future attempts to integrate models of biophysical and socioeconomic processes, based on the limitations of our coupled system.

Key words

biophysical; coral reefs; coupled models; decision support; socioeconomic; social–ecological systems

Copyright © 2011 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.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087