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A comparative appraisal of the resilience of marine social-ecological systems to mass mortalities of bivalves

Patrice Guillotreau, LEMNA, University of Nantes, France
Edward H Allison, School of Marine and Environmental Affairs, University of Washington, USA
Alida Bundy, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Bedford Institute of Oceanography, Halifax, Canada
Sarah R. Cooley, Ocean Conservancy, Washington, D.C., USA
Omar Defeo, UNDECIMAR, Facultad de Ciencias, Universidad de la Republica, Montevideo, Uruguay
Véronique Le Bihan, LEMNA, University of Nantes, France
Sophie Pardo, LEMNA, University of Nantes, France
R. Ian Perry, Fisheries and Oceans Canada, Pacific Biological Station, Nanaimo, Canada
George Santopietro, Economics Department, Radford University, USA
Tetsuo Seki, Japan Fisheries Science and Technology Association, Tokyo, Japan


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In many parts of the world, both wild and cultured populations of bivalves have been struck by mass mortality episodes because of climatic and anthropogenic stressors whose causes and consequences are not always clearly understood. Such outbreaks have resulted in a range of responses from the social (fishers or farmers) and governing systems. We analyzed six commercial bivalve industries affected by mass mortalities using I-ADApT, a decision support framework to assess the impacts and consequences of these perturbations on the natural, social, and governing systems, and the consequent responses of stakeholders to these events. We propose a multidimensional resilience framework to assess resilience along the natural, social, and governing axes and to compare adaptive responses and their likelihood of success. The social capital and governability of the local communities were key factors affecting the communities’ resilience and adaptation to environmental changes, but the rapid degradation of natural ecosystems puts the bivalve industry under a growing threat. Bivalve mariculture and fishing industries are likely to experience increased frequency, severity, and prevalence of such mass mortality events if the resilience of the natural systems is not improved. An understanding of previous adaptation processes can inform strategies for building adaptive capacity to future events.

Key words

I-ADApT; mass mortality; response appraisal; shellfish

Copyright © 2017 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