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Keywords:

  • Conservation planning;
  • marine protected areas;
  • natural resource governance;
  • resource management;
  • social network analysis

Abstract

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Section II: A social relational network perspective
  5. Section III: Potential benefits of applying a social relational network perspective
  6. Section IV: Conclusion
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. References
  9. Supporting Information

This mini-review outlines the emergence and benefit of applying a structurally explicit, social relational network perspective to inform the establishment and governance of marine protected area (MPAs) and MPA networks. This is an important conservation research and policy frontier. We draw on concepts from relational sociology and social network analysis to highlight the theoretical foundations of a social relational network perspective. Selected examples are used to: (1) illustrate the analytical utility and application of this network perspective to systematically examine attributes recognized as important for MPA establishment and governance; and (2) provide new insights on crucial practices and processes (e.g., knowledge exchange), core social attributes (e.g., social capital), and the roles and positions of diverse MPA actors.


Introduction

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Section II: A social relational network perspective
  5. Section III: Potential benefits of applying a social relational network perspective
  6. Section IV: Conclusion
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. References
  9. Supporting Information

Marine protected areas (MPAs) and MPA networks (Box 1) have emerged as a significant conservation and management strategy (Lubchenco et al. 2003; Christie 2011). Globally, the number of MPAs has increased dramatically, from less than 200 in 1970 to more than 5,000 to date (Thorpe et al. 2011). In addition, the Contracting Parties to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) recently reaffirmed the goal to protect and manage 10% of the world's oceans and seas by means of MPAs by 2020 (Toropova et al. 2010).

Fox et al. (2012a) have indicated that significant advances in the ecological and social sciences of MPAs will be required to achieve the CBD targets. They identified several research frontiers for policy-relevant MPA science and pointed specifically to the importance of better understanding the “role of social capital and social networks in the establishment and performance of MPAs” (Fox et al. 2012a, p. 6). This is crucial given that MPAs and MPA networks will increasingly be located nearer to growing coastal populations (Spalding et al. 2013). Social networks are also now recognized as a key variable for understanding conservation outcomes (Bodin & Crona 2009). Formal and informal social networks are central to multiactor governance arrangements (e.g., co-managed MPAs; Carlsson & Berkes 2005), and have been repeatedly cited as a key attribute in the broader natural resource management literature (Bodin et al. 2011). However, not all networks are structurally equal. Different patterns of social relations contribute to different conservation outcomes (Bodin et al. 2006; Bodin & Crona 2009). Systematic and place-specific analysis of differences in networks of social relations is emerging as a crucial dimension of MPA science.

Box 1. Selected definitions of Marine Protected Areas

Marine Protected Area (IUCN/WCPA 2008)

A clearly defined geographical space recognized, dedicated, and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values.

Marine Protected Area Network (WCPA/IUCN 2007)

A collection of individual marine protected areas operating cooperatively and synergistically, at various spatial scales, and with a range of protection levels, to fulfill ecological aims more effectively and comprehensively than individual sites could alone.

Our goal in this mini-review is to outline the emergence and benefit of a social relational network perspective to policy-relevant MPA science. We draw on concepts from relational sociology (Emirbayer & Goodwin 1994) and social network analysis (Wasserman & Faust 1994) to highlight the theoretical foundations of this perspective. Several examples are used to illustrate the analytical utility and application of a social relational network perspective to more systematically examine and make sense of attributes and processes (e.g., trust, knowledge exchange) identified as central to the establishment and governance of MPAs and MPA networks.

Section II: A social relational network perspective

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Section II: A social relational network perspective
  5. Section III: Potential benefits of applying a social relational network perspective
  6. Section IV: Conclusion
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. References
  9. Supporting Information

Consideration of the social connectivity associated with MPAs and MPA networks has only recently emerged (Christie et al. 2009; Lowry et al. 2009; Pietri et al. 2009; Bustamante & Vanzella-Khouri 2011; Green et al. 2011; Horigue et al. 2012). Most assessments are largely anecdotal or reflect a “binary metaphorical approach” (i.e., the network is either present or absent) (see Bodin et al. 2011), with the exception of a few empirical studies (e.g., Pietri et al. 2009; Horigue et al. 2012; Cohen et al. 2012) (Table 1). We believe it is imperative to move beyond a binary view of social networks and thus offer concepts and tools to help with our understanding of the establishment and governance of MPAs and MPA networks. Adoption of a structurally explicit, social relational network perspective is an important contribution to this challenge.

Table 1. Conceptualizing social networksa
Network approachCharacteristicsSelected examples from MPA literature
  1. a

    General organizing typology adapted from Bodin et al. (2011).

Binary metaphorical approach
  • Considers social networks as an unspecified binary variable (i.e., the network is or is not present; Bodin et al. 2011).
  • No consideration of the internal structural characteristics (e.g., positionalilty, structure) or of actual ties between actors (Bodin et al. 2011).
  • Actors considered to be either socially connected or socially detached.
  • Lowry et al. (2009) note that “[i]n order to enhance the administration and management of ecological networks, social networks are being formed through communication and sharing of results and coordination among institutions” (p. 276). Although a rationale is provided with regards to the role of the social networks, they are considered to be either present or absent with no reference to specific ties between actors and MPAs.
  • Bustamante and Vanzella-Khouri (2011) note that “[s]ocial MPA networks can be formed to facilitate learning, coordination and optimization of resources” (p. 90) as was the case with the establishment of the Caribbean Marine Protected Area Management Network and Forum (CaMPAM). However, social connectivity is considered present or absent.
Descriptive approach
  • With attention given to particular features and/or attributes (e.g., bonding ties, bridging ties) it embraces and recognizes that not all networks are created equally (Bodin et al. 2011)
  • May lack clear methodological strategies for the empirical investigation and analytical differentiation of network structures and/or features (Bodin et al. 2011).
  • Pietri et al. (2009), through their examination of two MPA networks in the Philippines introduce the concepts of information diffusion and homophily, whose origins and development are found in the social network literature. Although consideration is given to ways of improving information diffusion, it is treated in a very general manner with no specifics as to the structure and function of the network.
  • Horigue et al. (2012), through their examination of the challenges of establishing MPA networks in the Philippines, note the important role of bridging organizations for scaling up to MPA networks. Again, however, there is no mention of the structure and function of the network.
Structurally explicit approach
  • Draws attention to social structures, noting that structure matters.
  • Conceptualizes social networks as composed of actors (i.e., nodes) connected via a particular tie(s) (e.g., knowledge exchange, trust).
  • There can be variation in the types of ties (see Borgatti & Halgin 2011 for a typology of tie types), strength of ties, and/or number of ties between a set of actors.
  • Ties can be formal or informal.
  • Cohen et al.'s (2012) examination of the Solomon Islands Locally Managed Marine Area Network provides an illustrative example of a structurally explicit conceptualization of an MPA network. Here the authors consider two different ties among a set of actors and the respective social networks, including: (1) collaboration, where ties represented the flow of resources (e.g., human, financial, technical) and (2) knowledge-exchange where ties represented the flow of information relevant to management (Cohen et al. 2012).

We consider a social relational network perspective here as a conceptual model, the accompanying theoretical assumptions, and its associated methodological toolbox (sensu Bodin 2006). This social relational network perspective is largely informed by: (1) relational sociology (Emirbayer & Goodwin 1994; Emirbayer 1997; Mische 2011) and (2) social network analysis (Wasserman & Faust 1994). As Bodin et al. (2011) note, “[r]elational sociology stipulates that social relations are not completely random, but that they show patterns or particular configurations, which are important features of the lives of the actors who display them” (p. 9).

A structurally explicit social relational network approach (Table 1) goes beyond binary metaphorical and descriptive approaches (Table 1) and draws attention to social structures. Here, social structure refers to the “regularities in the patterns of relations among concrete entities” rather than “a harmony among abstract norms and values or a classification of concrete entities by their attributes” (White et al. 1976, pp. 733–34). Such an approach conceptualizes social networks as composed of actors (i.e., nodes) connected via a particular tie (e.g., knowledge exchange, trust; Figure 1a). For example, managers associated with an MPA network could be connected via particular patterns of communication through which they exchange ecological knowledge (e.g., the presence and spread of invasive species) or via particular patterns of collaboration. However, the social networks do not have to be fully connected (i.e., interconnected), but rather can be fragmented (Borgatti & Halgin 2011) such that two managers may communicate and/or collaborate with each other exclusively and not with the other managers (Figure 1b).

image

Figure 1. Conceptualizing social networks: (a) composed of actors (e.g., MPA managers; represented by the open circles) connected via particular relational ties (e.g., knowledge exchange; represented by the lines); (b) social networks can be fragmented with the potential that two actors are connected via one relational tie yet not connected to the other actors or a single actor can lack any relational ties (i.e., an isolate); (c) the significance of the tie between the two solid color actors (i.e., connecting two otherwise unconnected subgroups) is only realized when placed in the larger context of relational ties.

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There is a diversity of relational ties that can be identified and/or used for analytical purposes. Borgatti et al. (2009) provide a useful typology for categorizing and conceptualizing the variety of ties which include: (1) similarities (e.g., location, membership, attribute); (2) social relations (e.g., kinship, affective, cognitive); (3) interactions (e.g., knowledge exchange, helped); and (4) flows (e.g., information, resources). Although any one of the types of ties outlined by Borgatti et al. (2009) could provide key insights concerning social processes and outcomes of relevance to MPA establishment and governance, the final decision and most appropriate relational tie to examine ultimately depends on the research questions, objectives, and context. For example, to better understand how social networks contribute to the planning process in MPAs it is helpful to consider relational ties based on membership to a fisher co-operative or those based on attendance at community planning meetings, although this has yet to be a focus of research. Similarly, Frank (2011) has suggested that to better understand the role of social networks with regards to sustainable behaviors and practices, or the establishment of new norms, it is useful to identify relational ties that represent the flow of influence among a community of resource users such as fishers.

The social relational network perspective for MPA science emerges from several interdisciplinary bodies of literature (Bodin & Prell 2011), although we draw attention in particular to social networks (e.g., Wasserman & Faust 1994), conservation planning (e.g., Mills et al. 2013) and environmental governance (e.g., Armitage et al. 2012) (Figure 2). The theories, concepts, and models developed within the field of social networks such as the strength of weak ties (Granovetter 1973) and social influence (Friedkin 1998) significantly aid in understanding how the structure and function of networks relate to differing social processes and outcomes. Similarly, theories and concepts related to collective action and adaptive capacity from the related fields of conservation planning and environmental governance help to clarify the social processes and conditions required for positive natural resource governance and conservation outcomes (Crona et al. 2011). There is no singular theoretical underpinning, but rather the linking of concepts from these interdisciplinary bodies of literature that provides the foundations of a social relational network perspective for MPA science. These foundations can be used to examine more systematically the context-specific social relational dimensions that influence how MPAs and MPA networks function. In addition, these ideas and those that follow have a broader application including terrestrial protected areas (e.g., García-Amado et al. 2012), natural resource management (e.g., Bodin & Crona 2009), and conservation planning (e.g., Mills et al. 2014).

image

Figure 2. A social relational network perspective for MPA science.

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These theoretical foundations also provide an entrée to systematically consider the features, attributes and processes associated with MPAs and MPA networks (Figure 3). We group these features and attributes (Figure 3; see also Table S1) into three broad categories: (1) practices and processes (e.g., knowledge exchange, collaboration); (2) social attributes (e.g., social capital, trust); and (3) actors, roles, and positions (e.g., bridging organizations, brokers). Identifying, observing, measuring, and/or modeling specific network structures and features (e.g., modularity, density, and bridging ties) associated with the above attributes and examining the relationship between the two serves as an analytical entrée. Although the list of attributes (Figure 3) is not exhaustive, we include those that have been emphasized in the literature (see Table S1 for references). In addition, the examination of various attributes and processes is not mutually exclusive (see Figure 3). For example, specific network structures and features can be considered in relation to both knowledge exchange (social process) and cross-scale brokers (actors, roles, and positions) (e.g., Cohen et al. 2012).

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Figure 3. Features, attributes and processes associated with MPAs and MPA networks. The primary arrows represent the possible analytical relationships examined between specific network structures/ features and the various attributes. The secondary arrows represent the possible analytical relationships between the different categories of features and attributes.*

*Refer to Table S1 for theoretical and empirical references drawn from the broader natural resource management and environmental governance literature associated with each feature and attribute.

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Three theoretical assumptions are central to the social relational network perspective we outline here. First, emphasis is placed on relations rather than personal attributes. In this regard, “actors and their actions are viewed as interdependent rather than independent, autonomous units” (Wasserman & Faust 1994, p. 4). The structural environment of the network is thus considered as either enabling or constraining to actors and processes (Wasserman & Faust 1994). Researchers or managers can use this perspective to ask a variety of questions about the structure and function of networks as they relate to differing conservation processes and outcomes. Although emphasis is placed on relations, personal attributes (e.g., gear type, occupation, landing site) are still taken into consideration. Similarly, a social relational approach seeks to merge rather than aggregate individual agency and social structure (Emirbayer 1997; Mische 2011). Agency is viewed here as the “temporally constructed engagement by actors of different structural environments” (Emirbayer & Mische 1998, p. 970). Agency is also considered to have an iterative relationship with social structure, as such engagement “both reproduces and transforms those structures in interactive response to the problems posed by changing historical situations” (Emirbayer & Mische 1998, p. 970).

The second premise of a social relational network perspective is that analytical and theoretical emphasis is placed on examining networks rather than groups (e.g., a discretely bounded collective of individuals organized formally or informally). A focus on the network encourages analyses to move beyond assumptions about uniformity and group homogeneity, and to recognize the significant potential for heterogeneity in any MPA context (e.g., differences in levels of commitment, connections and recognition) (Marin & Wellman 2011). For example, fisherfolk adjacent to or operating within MPAs are often treated as a homogenous group and aggregated as a unitary stakeholder. In fact, there is likely to be significant heterogeneity based on gear type and/or the extent to which individuals are reliant on fishing for their livelihood. Shifting the emphasis to networks allows for the possibility to: (1) define a “group” empirically rather than a priori; (2) have an actor be a member of multiple “groups” rather than mutually exclusive groups; and (3) move beyond clearly identifiable groups (e.g., fisherfolk co-operatives) (Marin & Wellman 2011). As such, shifting the emphasis to networks allows one to ask questions and empirically examine the relational connectivity between and among resource users (e.g., fisherfolk), diverse stakeholder groups (e.g., tourism, conservation NGOs), and/or the relevant management agencies and organizations associated with MPAs and MPA networks.

The third premise of a social relational network perspective is that we can only understand specific relations or patterns of relations relative to their broader relational context (Marin & Wellman 2011). For example, a key tie between two MPA managers (see Figure 1c—solid circles) that connects two otherwise unconnected groups of governance actors (empty circles) only emerges when the broader relational context is viewed as compared to being considered in isolation. Furthermore, a social relational view “recognizes that from these relations greater wholes are formed that display emergent or novel properties, above all, social structure” (Bodin et al. 2011, p. 8).

Section III: Potential benefits of applying a social relational network perspective

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Section II: A social relational network perspective
  5. Section III: Potential benefits of applying a social relational network perspective
  6. Section IV: Conclusion
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. References
  9. Supporting Information

A social relational network perspective is a theory-driven approach to further MPA science and policy. For example, the perspective provides a basis to more systematically contribute to an empirical analysis of social attributes and processes (e.g., trust, knowledge exchange) increasingly crucial in MPA contexts located adjacent to and directly affected by growing coastal populations. We show here the analytical utility of a social relational network perspective with regards to understanding and informing: (1) the establishment and (2) governance of MPAs and MPA networks. Key benefits and contributions to conservation policy are summarized in Table  2.

Table 2. Empirical questions and applications for policy relevant MPA science
Core concernsIssues/ aspectsEmpirical questions and applications
EstablishmentEnabling conditions
  • Identifying bridging and bonding ties along with measuring the density of ties provides key insights on the levels and types of social capital necessary for effective conservation outcomes.
 Stakeholders
  • Identifying relevant stakeholders and actors in diverse positions within the social networks (e.g., including those on the periphery) helps to address issues of marginalization and avoid potential conflict (Prell et al. 2009; Prell et al. 2011).
 Location/ boundary setting
  • Coastal-marine seascapes are spatially heterogeneous with regards to use (e.g., different gear types often target different habitats, species and/or depths). Similar to stakeholder analysis above, the identification of different users contributes to their inclusion in deliberative decision-making regarding the location and boundaries associated with a new MPA as they may be differentially impacted.
  • Identifying the location and distribution of local knowledge related to key ecological processes and patterns (e.g., spawning patterns and larval dispersal) among social networks contributes to establishing appropriate ecological boundaries (Frank et al. 2011).
 Decision making/ advisory councils
  • Similar to stakeholder analysis it contributes to the identification of key individuals (e.g., actors with particular types of ties and/or numerous ties) for decision-making entities and advisory committees (e.g., board members for an MPA).
 Evaluating the planning process
  • Post MPA establishment, participatory social network mapping (e.g., identifying actors and influence) can be used to evaluate the planning process and inform future collaborative and participatory processes associated with the management of the MPA and/or the establishment of future MPAs.
 Participation & engagement
  • How might social relational ties within and between social network subgroups influence participation in MPA planning meetings?
  • Using two-mode network data one could consider how an actor's location or position within the network is impacted by membership in fisherfolk cooperatives, tourism associations, etc. (Frank 2011).
GovernanceAdaptive management
  • How might relational patterns between MPA managers enhance or inhibit to the diffusion of innovative practices?
  • What structural and/or social relational features of networks foster collective learning for adaptive management of MPAs? (e.g., Newig et al. 2010).
  • How do social networks contribute to the monitoring and evaluation of MPA goals, targets and management plans?
  • Similar to stakeholder analysis it helps to identify key individuals for network intervention to facilitate social learning among a given set of actors (e.g., Prell et al. 2011).
  • How does the structure of social networks (formal and informal) enhance or inhibit the integration and application of different types of knowledge?
  • What role do social networks play regarding the detection and response to invasive species (e.g., Indo-pacific lionfish in the Caribbean)?
  • How do relational patterns within MPAs and MPA networks contribute (i.e., facilitating or constraining) to the capacity of governance systems to adapt to climate change?
 Collaborative management
  • How does composition and connectivity of subgroups facilitate or constrain collective action related to community-based MPAs?
  • Examining network structures and patterns of influence provides insights into power asymmetries which may constrain collaboration among relevant actors (e.g., Weiss et al. 2012).
  • How might relational patterns in one network facilitate or constrain the relational patterns of another?
 Formal and informal institutions
  • Examining the role of relational ties regarding the flow and diffusion of community norms associated with MPAs for insights concerning compliance (Frank 2011).
  • Identifying institutional entrepreneurs and understanding the structural/social relational factors that enhance or inhibit such individuals (Crona et al. 2011).
  • How do relational patterns associated with an MPA network contribute to the establishment of new formal institutions (e.g., rules, regulations, legislation)?

MPA establishment

A social relational network perspective provides several entry points with which to better understand relevant features and processes (Figure 3) associated with the planning of MPAs and MPA networks (Table 2). Here, we highlight the added value of a social relational network perspective to identify stakeholders, understand participation, and consider the enabling social conditions for effective establishment and conservation outcomes (see Table 2).

The identification and inclusion of relevant stakeholders is a critical component of MPA planning and establishment (Fox et al. 2012a). Through the explicit consideration of actors, roles, and positions (Figure 3) a social relational network perspective provides a complementary approach to more traditional qualitative stakeholder analysis. Such a relational approach can serve to not only identify the diversity of relevant stakeholders, but to indicate: (1) the diverse position of actors within social networks relevant to MPAs and (2) the particular types of ties and/or number of ties among MPA actors (Prell et al. 2009). For example, Prell et al. (2011), applied measures of centrality and positional analysis to select stakeholder representatives to participate in site visits associated with participatory natural resource management of the Peaks District National Park in the United Kingdom. Based on their approach, the individuals identified for inclusion from the network represented not only the range of stakeholder categories but also those that represented unique positions within the network, and the most central role within the positional groupings (Prell et al. 2011). In the case of MPA establishment, such an approach helps to identify stakeholders found on the periphery of the network (e.g., fishers using certain gear types, fishers from smaller landing sites) that might otherwise not be considered in initial planning discussions. Applied in this way, a social relational network perspective contributes to strategies aimed at reducing marginalization, and the potential for future conflict.

A social relational network perspective can also provide key insights regarding the structural and relational factors associated with participation in the planning and establishment of MPAs and MPA networks. For example, two-mode network data (i.e., affiliation ties) can be used to represent attendance at an event or membership to an organization as compared to one-mode data, which traditionally represents direct ties between individuals (e.g., social relations, interactions, flows). In the context of MPA establishment, such network data might be composed of fishers and their attendance at different planning meetings or their membership to a local fisherfolk co-operative. Defining an actor's position within a two-mode network can provide critical insights of relevance to MPA establishment such as the adoption of new norms and the diffusion of attitudes. As Frank (2011) posits, an actor's position within a two-mode network “might then anticipate the formation of close friendships through which knowledge and normative influence can flow” (p. 199).

Understanding the enabling social conditions relevant to the establishment of MPAs may help contribute to positive conservation outcomes and the scaling up of MPAs (e.g., more MPAs, bigger MPAs and/or networks of MPAs) (Fox et al. 2012b). For example, a social relational network perspective can help researchers and managers understand the degree of social capital in MPA contexts (Crona & Bodin 2011; Marin et al. 2012), an attribute repeatedly cited as critical for successful conservation outcomes (Pretty & Ward 2001). Marin et al. (2012) examined a coastal benthic co-management system in Chile and found the higher performing fisher organizations more likely to show attributes of linking social capital (i.e., cross-scale linkages or vertical ties to higher levels such as the state), even in the absence of bridging social capital (i.e., horizontal ties to other communities—often distant and weaker—at the same level such as other fisher organizations). Recognizing that the role of social capital (including levels and types) is context dependent serves as a reminder for MPA managers and scientists as to the importance of systematic and place-specific analysis of social relational networks. Furthermore, identifying and understanding the social capital within communities is paramount when considering the establishment of community based and/or co-managed MPAs. As Mills et al. (2013) show, for example, understanding the social characteristics that contribute to the feasibility of conservation (i.e., strong compliance) helps to guide efforts toward effective outcomes and the best use of limited resources (e.g., human, technical, financial).

The feasibility of applying a social relational network perspective depends upon the practicalities of data collection (Bodin et al. 2011), despite the potential. For example, relevant social relational data might be readily available in meeting notes, membership directories, or public records of permits/quotas. In other cases, data collection could be problematic or prohibitive because secondary sources are not accessible, or because primary collection of social relational data is time intensive and respondents are often hesitant to share that type of information.

MPA governance

A social relational network perspective is gaining traction as an analytical approach in an increasing number of environmental governance and natural resource management settings (Bodin et al. 2011). Experiences from these settings provide valuable insights for the governance of MPAs and MPA networks (see Cohen et al. 2012; Table 2). Here we draw upon several cases (e.g., Kenya, Chile, and Mexico; see Table 3) to demonstrate the diversity of features and attributes that can be examined with a social relational approach (Figure 2), provide key insights on its application, and illustrate the potential for a social relational network perspective to both contribute to and advance policy-relevant MPA science.

Table 3. Selected coastal-marine case studies applying a social relational network perspective
 Social network  
 features and  
 attributes used  
Case Studyin analysisKey insightsReferences
Kenya
  • Social capital
  • Knowledge exchange
  • Cross-scale linkages
  • Leadership
  • Brokers
  • Hubs
  • Subgroups possessed diverse and complementary local ecological knowledge.
  • Deep-sea fishermen occupied a central position. However, due to homogeneity & lack of connections to other subgroups, the complex knowledge possessed by the deep-sea fishermen is likely to only be communicated to others in the same user group.
  • Highly connected actors.
    • Predominately occupied by deep-sea fisherman.
    • Often had connections to outside agencies (i.e., cross-scale linkages).
  • Postulated that the mobility of the pelagic fish and the lack of time spent in the area (i.e., many deep-sea fishermen are semi-migrant from Tanzania) were contributing factors concerning this perceptual difference (i.e., deep-sea fisherman did not perceive the changes to the fishery that other user groups noted).
  • Suggested that the reduced sense of place and higher mobility help to explain the lack of incentives and perceptions necessary for actors in central positions to mobilize others for collective action.
Crona & Bodin (2006),Crona & Bodin (2011),Crona & Bodin (2012).
Chile
  • Social capital
  • Collaboration
  • Functional groups
  • Actor positions
  • Multilevel linkages
  • Diffusion of innovation
  • Co-management includes several functional groups not just state and community.
  • However, no single sector dominated entire co-management network.
  • Grassroots constrained by current network structure characterized by:
    • Centralized decision making/ concentration of power in government
    • Min. horizontal exchanges & collaboration between fisher orgs.
  • Moving beyond collaboration (i.e., facilitation & hindrance) shows a more complete picture of co-management arrangements.
  • Levels of social capital varied significantly between fisher organizations.
  • Found linking social capital more regularly associated with higher performing fisher organizations despite lack of bridging social capital.
  • May be a reflection of the current co-management structure where fisher orgs. may benefit greater from linking rather than bridging ties.
Marin & Berkes (2010), Marin et al. (2012).
Mexico
  • Social capital
  • Knowledge exchange
  • Diffusion of innovation
  • Actor position
  • Awareness and network structure (e.g., bonding, bridging, and linking social capital) present for collective action, however, yet to be mobilized.
  • Have adaptive capacity but lack proactive resilience, requiring the need for institution building.
  • Social networks among resource users activated depending upon varying ecological conditions.
  • Actor centrality can vary based on level of aggregation (i.e., local versus regional).
  • Importance of considering both individual and relational attributes to identify resource users.
Ramirez-Sanchez & Pinkerton (2009), Ramirez-Sanchez (2011a), Ramirez-Sanchez (2011b).

As noted above, Marin et al. (Marin & Berkes 2010; Marin et al. 2012) applied a social relational network perspective to examine a coastal benthic co-management arrangement in Chile involving local fisher associations, state institutions, and technical assistance institutions (Table 3). Their analysis revealed several insights for MPA governance given the emphasis on organizational ties among seven functional groups that play different roles and contribute in different ways to the success of the co-management arrangement (Marin & Berkes 2010). Their analysis also revealed how a high degree of centralization of state agencies may hinder experimentation at the local level (Marin & Berkes 2010). Yet, as the authors note, “[t]he stability of the state and the rule of the law provide a solid base for actors and the management system” (Marin & Berkes 2010, p. 856). For MPA managers and scientists, it is important to remember that different network structures and features contribute to different governance processes and thus it is a challenge to identify the most favorable levels and combinations of structural characteristics (Bodin & Crona 2009). In addition, moving beyond collaborative relationships—via the examination of both facilitating and hindering ties—helps to show a more realistic representation of co-management arrangements in which multiple state agencies interact with each other and communities through a combination of relational ties that enhance and/or inhibit various governance processes (e.g., decision making) (Marin & Berkes 2010). The inclusion of new actors and stakeholders in MPAs and MPA networks requires new tools and ways of understanding their roles and the implications for conservation outcomes. As illustrated here, a social relational network perspective provides one helpful way to address this need.

Considering various social attributes also serves as a useful entry point to gain valuable insights with regards to the governance of MPAs and MPA networks. For example, bonding, bridging and linking social capital have been cited as necessary preconditions for collective action. However, an analysis by Ramirez-Sanchez & Pinkerton (2009) of information sharing among fishers in a small-scale commercial fishery in Mexico (see Table 3) showed that despite the presence of all three types of social capital (i.e., bonding, bridging, and linking) and a general awareness of the ecological conditions, the communities had yet to leverage their capacity to address the continued resource decline. The analysis serves as a reminder for MPA managers and scientists that social capital alone is often not sufficient for collective action and collaborative management. Furthermore, it serves as an example where an increased understanding of social networks and social capital provides a foundation for the possible establishment of new institutions (Ramirez-Sanchez & Pinkerton 2009). However, Frank (2011) cautions that natural resource management approaches and interventions informed by networks, which were successful in one context, may not be appropriate in another.

Examining social processes and practices (Figure 3) similarly provides valuable insights for the governance of MPAs and MPA networks. For example, Crona & Bodin's (2011) application of a social relational network perspective to understand the continued decline of marine resources within a mixed gear artisanal fishery in a rural Kenyan village (Table 3) focused on knowledge exchange. Knowledge exchange has been noted as important in governance processes designed to encourage learning and adapting in the face of change and uncertainty (Armitage et al. 2012). The authors found that the subgroups among the fisherman—based on primary occupation (e.g., seine net, deep sea)—possessed diverse but complementary local ecological knowledge (Crona & Bodin 2011). However, because of homogeneity among the deep-sea fisherman and a lack of connections to other subgroups, the knowledge they possess is not communicated to others in the same user group, thus posing a challenge to social learning (Crona & Bodin 2011). Such findings highlight possible explanations for the continued degradation of marine resources and lack of collective action, and also point to opportunities for network building (e.g., Vance-Borland & Holley 2011).

A social relational network perspective can help to incorporate social theory into MPA science. The examples highlighted illustrate the analytical insights to be gained using a structurally explicit, social relational network approach (Table 2). Furthermore, the examples indicate the utility of the approach when applied at different levels of analysis (i.e., whole network, subgroup, individual/node), and in highlighting the diversity of types of ties (e.g., information sharing, collaboration) that are important to MPA and MPA network settings. However, there are limitations with the application of a social relational approach. As noted, some of these limitations are related to data access and analytical challenges. However, there are also instances when the role of social relational networks in MPA contexts are not as important to establishment or governance as other factors, or where the appropriateness and utility of a social relational network perspective requires the consideration of context (Frank et al. 2007; Bodin et al. 2011). In some instances, for example, market forces or institutional factors (e.g., lack of state support and/or recognition of local management arrangements, weak sanctions) may contribute more significantly to particular MPA governance arrangements, conservation outcomes, and/or human behavior. Furthermore, limitations exist with regards to the application of some theories and concepts. For example, Frank et al.'s (2011) theory of social embeddedness is based on the premise that actors identify with a given community, which the authors note may not always be the case (e.g., mobile fishers, migrant resource users) and thus these actors are unlikely to be influenced by community norms.

Section IV: Conclusion

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Section II: A social relational network perspective
  5. Section III: Potential benefits of applying a social relational network perspective
  6. Section IV: Conclusion
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. References
  9. Supporting Information

The continued degradation of the marine environment and anticipated impacts of climate change will require policy-relevant MPA science informed by both ecological and social theory. Fox et al. (2012a) have identified several research frontiers to advance MPA science, one of which is greater attention to the role of social networks. This mini-review outlines the emergence of a social relational network perspective and its contributions to policy-relevant MPA science, including the potential for more systematic identification and examination of actor roles, social attributes, and processes (e.g., trust, knowledge exchange) crucial to the establishment and governance of MPAs and MPA networks (Table 2). There are no simple approaches to examining the social context of MPAs and MPA networks but the approach outlined here provides a theory-driven framework for further modeling and empirical analysis. We identify four key insights associated with the application of a social relational network approach to policy-relevant MPA science:

  • The additional scope of Aichi Target 11—established in 2010—to conserve areas of particular importance for ecosystem services and secure greater benefits for people while being equitably managed requires additional conceptual models and analytical methods (Spalding et al. 2013). A social relational network perspective contributes to this need to explicitly consider the social dimensions of MPAs and MPA networks so as to inform future policy and practice.
  • Understanding how social relational networks enhance or inhibit the establishment of MPAs and MPA networks can provide new insights into the “enabling environments” that contribute to scaling up of MPAs (Fox et al. 2012b), and identifying prospective areas where conservation is feasible and collective action more likely (see Mills et al. 2013).
  • The emergence of hybrid governance arrangements in conservation contexts (Armitage et al. 2012), and the inclusion of new actors and stakeholders associated with MPAs and MPA networks, requires more explicit and systematic approaches to examine the formal and informal social networks that are central to multi-actor governance arrangements (e.g., co-managed MPAs) (Carlsson & Berkes 2005).
  • Scholars studying social networks are generating valuable analytical approaches to examine different types and dimensions of social networks (e.g., temporal networks). Several of these approaches, as outlined in Table 4, represent important research frontiers of a social relational network perspective for policy-relevant MPA science with promising applications to better understand various conservation outcomes.
Table 4. Social network research frontiers for policy-relevant MPA science
Research frontierWhy crucialImplications for MPA science
Temporal networks
  • Longitudinal studies of social networks can reveal network evolution as it relates to the structure, function and associated actors.
  • Furthermore, it helps move beyond the traditionally static nature of social network analysis that only provides a snapshot in time.
  • Such an approach may provide key insights as to whether different network structures and actor positions are associated with conservation planning and MPA establishment versus the ongoing active management and governance of MPAs.
  • Could link changes in network structure and function with changes in the ecological and biophysical condition of MPAs.
  • Insights concerning the transformation of governance arrangements contributing to improved conservation outcomes associated with MPAs.
Spatial networks
  • It has long been noted that space can influence social relations in varying ways.
  • Furthermore, CPRs such as fisheries & coral reefs have a significant spatial component to them.
  • Coupling social relational data with GIS data in turn situates social networks in their geographic context.
  • Provide insights relevant to scaling up from MPAs to Ecosystem-Based Management.
  • Contribute to building capacity to develop and/or expand MPA networks (i.e., identifying actors and linkages that connect communities and/or regions).
Multilevel networks
  • It has been noted that different actor groups may be active at different scales with different and often scale specific knowledge (Ernstson et al. 2010).
  • Social networks are not closed but rather nested resulting in the potential to exhibit different hierarchical levels of scale.
  • Could provide key insights concerning the continuous debate between top down and bottom up strategies for MPA governance.
  • Contribute to an increased understanding of the interplay between local level networks of resource users and national networks of actors contributing to decision-making, policy, research, funding, financing, etc. (i.e., emergent structures; constraint).
Social–ecological networks
  • There has been an increasing recognition of the linked and interdependent nature of social–ecological systems including MPAs.
  • Such an approach may provide key insights into the structure and function of MPA networks that are linked ecologically and/or socially through resource users and governance actors.

Acknowledgments

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Section II: A social relational network perspective
  5. Section III: Potential benefits of applying a social relational network perspective
  6. Section IV: Conclusion
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. References
  9. Supporting Information

The authors gratefully acknowledge the Partnership for Canada–Caribbean Community Climate Change Adaptation and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada for supporting this work. This article benefited from ongoing discussions with several members of the Environmental Change and Governance Group at the University of Waterloo, especially Jeremy Pittman who reviewed an earlier draft. We would also like to thank the three anonymous reviewers whose constructive comments and suggestions strengthened the article.

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  5. Section III: Potential benefits of applying a social relational network perspective
  6. Section IV: Conclusion
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. References
  9. Supporting Information
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Supporting Information

  1. Top of page
  2. Abstract
  3. Introduction
  4. Section II: A social relational network perspective
  5. Section III: Potential benefits of applying a social relational network perspective
  6. Section IV: Conclusion
  7. Acknowledgments
  8. References
  9. Supporting Information
FilenameFormatSizeDescription
conl12090-sup-0001-SupMat.pdf93KTable S1. Social relational network features and attributes with references.

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