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Developing conservation targets in social-ecological systems

Phillip S Levin, NOAA Fisheries, Northwest Fisheries Science Center
Gregory D Williams, Pacific States Marine Fisheries Commission; Northwest Fisheries Science Center, NMFS, NOAA
Amanda Rehr, NOAA Fisheries, Northwest Fisheries Science Center
Karma C Norman, NOAA Fisheries, Northwest Fisheries Science Center
Chris J Harvey, National Marine Fisheries Service


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The development of targets is foundational in conservation. Although progress has been made in setting targets, the diverse linkages among ecological and social components make target setting for coupled social-ecological systems extremely challenging. Developing integrated social-ecological targets is difficult because it forces policy makers to consider how management actions propagate throughout social-ecological systems, and because ultimately it is society, not scientists, that defines targets. We developed an interdisciplinary approach for identifying management targets and illustrate this approach using an example motivated by Puget Sound, USA. Our approach blends ecological modeling with empirical social science to articulate trade-offs and reveal societal preferences for different social-ecological states. The framework aims to place information in the hands of decision makers and promote discussion in the appropriate forums. Our ultimate objective is to encourage the informed participation of citizens in the development of social-ecological targets that reflect their values while also protecting key ecosystem attributes.

Key words

conservation target, ecosystem assessment, scenario analysis, social norm analysis,

Copyright © 2015 by the author(s). Published here under license by The Resilience Alliance. This article is under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. You may share and adapt the work 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