Modeling responses of coupled social-ecological systems of the Gulf of California to anthropogenic and natural perturbations

Heather M. Leslie, Maja Schlüter, Richard Cudney-Bueno, Simon Asher Levin

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


Key elements of the rapidly expanding field of ecosystem-based management include: (a) understanding connections among social and ecological systems and (b) developing analytical approaches to inform the necessary trade-offs among ecosystem services and human activities in coastal and marine areas. To address these needs, we investigate the impacts of multiple economic sectors on the marine ecosystem and dependent human community in the Gulf of California with an ecological-economic model. We focus on the spotted rose snapper (Lutjanus guttatus), an economically important species targeted concurrently by the nearshore artisanal fleet, the sportfishing fleet, and by the industrial shrimp fleet as bycatch. Economic returns to the local community are driven by the artisanal fishery catch and the number of tourists who engage in the sportsfishery, and these variables are in turn impacted by fish abundance. We find that the coexistence of the two sectors (and production of both seafood and tourism services) creates stability in key elements of the coupled systems. When the coupled systems are perturbed by changes in exploitation and climate variability, the artisanal fishery responds more rapidly and to a greater degree than the sportsfishery to shifts in the fish population. Our results suggest that vital components of coupled systems may well respond differently to climate variability or other perturbations, and that management strategies should be developed with this in mind. Models like ours can facilitate the development and testing of hypotheses about the form and strength of interactions between ecosystems, services, and the human communities that rely on them.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)505-519
Number of pages15
JournalEcological Research
Issue number3
StatePublished - May 2009

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics


  • Ecological-economics
  • Ecosystem-based management
  • Fisheries
  • Marine ecosystem services
  • Modeling
  • Social-ecological system
  • Trade-offs


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