The social-ecological system framework as a knowledge classificatory system for benthic small-scale fisheries

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Ostrom proposed the underpinnings of a framework for the systematic study of the governance of complex social-ecological systems. Here we hypothesize that Ostrom's social-ecological system framework can be useful to build a classification system for small-scale benthic fisheries, regarding their governance processes and outcomes. The purpose of this paper is to contribute to knowledge accumulation of benthic fisheries. To tailor the framework, we relied on discussions among experts and a systematic literature review of benthic fisheries from 1980 to 2010. This literature review helped us refine variable definitions and provide readers with illustrative reference papers. We then illustrate the approach and its potential contributions through two studies of the emergence of self-organization in Mexico and Chile. We highlight synthetic lessons from the cases and the overall approach as well as reflect on remaining challenges to the development of a social-ecological system framework as a diagnostic tool for knowledge accumulation and synthesis. © 2013 Elsevier Ltd.






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Basurto, X, S Gelcich and E Ostrom (2013). The social-ecological system framework as a knowledge classificatory system for benthic small-scale fisheries. Global Environmental Change, 23(6). pp. 1366–1380. 10.1016/j.gloenvcha.2013.08.001 Retrieved from

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Xavier Basurto

Truman and Nellie Semans/Alex Brown & Sons Associate Professor

I am interested in the fundamental question of how groups (human and non-human) can find ways to self-organize, cooperate, and engage in successful collective action for the benefit of the common good. To do this I strive to understand how the institutions (formal and informal rules and norms) that govern social behavior, interplay with biophysical variables to shape social-ecological systems. What kind of institutions are better able to govern complex-adaptive systems? and how can societies (large and small) develop robust institutions that provide enough flexibility for collective learning and adaptation over the long-term?

My academic and professional training is based on a deep conviction that it is through integrating different disciplinary perspectives and methods that we will be able to find solutions to challenging dilemmas in natural resources management, conservation, and environmental policy. Trained as a marine biologist, I completed a M.S in natural resources studying small-scale fisheries in the Gulf of California, Mexico. Realizing the need to bring social science theories into my work on common-pool resources sustainability, I earned an MPA and a Ph.D. in Management (with a minor in cultural anthropology) from the University of Arizona and under the supervision of Edella Schlager. Following I spent two years working with Elinor Ostrom, 2009 co-winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics, at the Workshop for Political Theory and Policy Analysis of Indiana University. Methodologically, I am familiar with a variety of quantitative and qualitative approaches and formally trained to conduct Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA or more recently fsQCA), that allows among other things, systematic comparisons of middle range N sample sizes and address issues of multiple-causality.

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