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Analyzing drivers of fish biomass and biodiversity within community fish refuges in Cambodia

Kathryn J. Fiorella, Department of Population Medicine and Diagnostic Sciences, Cornell University; Master of Public Health Program, Cornell University
Elizabeth R. Bageant, Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University
Miratori Kim, WorldFish
Vichet Sean, WorldFish
Vanvuth Try, WorldFish
Hillary J. MacDonell
Eric Baran, WorldFish
Yumiko Kura, WorldFish
Alan C. Brooks, WorldFish; Pact
Christopher B. Barrett, Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management, Cornell University
Shakuntala H. Thilsted, WorldFish


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Freshwater social-ecological systems are shaped by site-specific characteristics, environmental change and annual fluctuations, and the actions of resource users and managers. Our primary aim is to analyze the relative effects of these multifacted forces on fishery productivity and biodiversity using the case of community-managed protected areas within Cambodia’s rice field fisheries, known as community fish refuges. Our secondary aim is to take advantage of fixed-effects regression models, a rigorous approach that is common in other disciplines, yet novel to analysis of social-ecological system productivity, and allows comparison of each site to itself across time using observational data. We analyze the relative associations of site characteristics, annual fluctuations, biophysical modifications (e.g., deepening, creation of inlet/outlets, etc.), and governance capacity (i.e., community committee meeting intensity, fundraising to support illegal fishing patrols, etc.) with fish biomass and biodiversity within 40 refuges over three years. We find that seasonal and site-specific effects within this system relate strongly to biomass and species richness patterns. We also find an association between biomass and biodiversity and some elements of governance capacity building. Our findings suggest that in this setting solutions tailored and responsive to the local context may be most appropriate given the strong interannual and site-specific drivers. Methodologically, the dynamism and site specificity of such systems befits within-site comparisons over long time horizons to appreciate the factors that drive biomass and biodiversity.

Key words

coupled human and natural systems; freshwater fisheries; inland fisheries; Mekong River; protected areas; social-ecological systems; Tonle Sap Lake

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.

Ecology and Society. ISSN: 1708-3087