A pinboard by
Claudia Benham

Lecturer, James Cook University


Supporting better marine conservation through integrated social and ecological research

It is now apparent that effective marine conservation requires understanding and managing both the biophysical and human dimensions of ecosystem degradation. My research employs a range of social and ecological research methods to investigate the causes of degradation in tropical coastal habitats, with a focus on seagrasses. My work also examines how local communities interact with coastal environments, and how environmental changes impact the wellbeing of coastal peoples.


A novel framework for analyzing conservation impacts: evaluation, theory, and marine protected areas.

Abstract: Environmental conservation initiatives, including marine protected areas (MPAs), have proliferated in recent decades. Designed to conserve marine biodiversity, many MPAs also seek to foster sustainable development. As is the case for many other environmental policies and programs, the impacts of MPAs are poorly understood. Social-ecological systems, impact evaluation, and common-pool resource governance are three complementary scientific frameworks for documenting and explaining the ecological and social impacts of conservation interventions. We review key components of these three frameworks and their implications for the study of conservation policy, program, and project outcomes. Using MPAs as an illustrative example, we then draw upon these three frameworks to describe an integrated approach for rigorous empirical documentation and causal explanation of conservation impacts. This integrated three-framework approach for impact evaluation of governance in social-ecological systems (3FIGS) accounts for alternative explanations, builds upon and advances social theory, and provides novel policy insights in ways that no single approach affords. Despite the inherent complexity of social-ecological systems and the difficulty of causal inference, the 3FIGS approach can dramatically advance our understanding of, and the evidentiary basis for, effective MPAs and other conservation initiatives.

Pub.: 19 Jul '17, Pinned: 04 Aug '17

Understanding spearfishing in a coral reef fishery: Fishers' opportunities, constraints, and decision-making.

Abstract: Social and ecological systems come together during the act of fishing. However, we often lack a deep understanding of the fishing process, despite its importance for understanding and managing fisheries. A quantitative, mechanistic understanding of the opportunities fishers encounter, the constraints they face, and how they make decisions within the context of opportunities and constraints will enhance the design of fisheries management strategies to meet linked ecological and social objectives and will improve scientific capacity to predict impacts of different strategies. We examined the case of spearfishing in a Caribbean coral reef fishery. We mounted cameras on fishers' spearguns to observe the fish they encountered, what limited their ability to catch fish, and how they made decisions about which fish to target. We observed spearfishers who dove with and without the assistance of compressed air, and compared the fishing process of each method using content analysis of videos and decision models of fishers' targeting selections. Compressor divers encountered more fish, took less time to catch each fish, and had a higher rate of successful pursuits. We also analyzed differences among taxa in this multispecies fishery, because some taxa are known to be ecologically or economically more valuable than others. Parrotfish are ecologically indispensable for healthy coral reefs, and they were encountered and captured more frequently than any other taxon. Fishers made decisions about which fish to target based on a fish's market value, proximity to the fisher, and taxon. The information uncovered on fishers' opportunities, constraints, and decision making has implications for managing this fishery and others. Moreover, it demonstrates the value of pursuing an improved understanding of the fishing process from the perspective of the fishers.

Pub.: 28 Jul '17, Pinned: 04 Aug '17