Using a socio-ecological-system approach to assess linkages, drivers and likely outcomes of a large-scale marine protected area

Staci Lewis1, Emily Kelly2, Alfredo Giron3, Lucie Hazen1, Eric Henry Hartge2, Yimnang Golbuu4, Fiorenza Micheli5 and Jim Leape1, (1)Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions, Stanford, CA, United States, (2)Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions, CA, United States, (3)National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis, Santa Barbara, CA, United States, (4)Palau International Coral Reef Center, Koror, Palau, (5)Stanford University, Stanford, CA, United States
Mapping a socio-ecological system (SES) provides insight into linkages, drivers and direct and indirect effects of new laws and policies implemented within that system. The Palau National Marine Sanctuary (PNMS), a large-scale marine protected area (LSMPA) encompassing the Republic of Palau’s Exclusive Economic Zone, will have myriad effects on the resources and users within that system as well as governance structures surrounding it. Using the SES framework, we created a concept diagram of the four zones created by the PNMS including the biophysical resources, current and expected users, and governance and management components in advance of the PNMS full implementation. We identified linkages and feedbacks to understand (1) how the PNMS will influence the SES when fully implemented in January 2020, (2) potential unanticipated effects, and (3) potential policy options or other mechanisms that could aid in achieving the goals of the PNMS. We characterized several interdependent linkages, particularly among pelagic fishes, reef fishes, fishermen, tour companies, tourists, and residents, that will shift based on future policy options. We also identified key data needed from research and monitoring programs to best inform how these linkages may change. Importantly, along with serving an important exercise in the planning and implementation of a LSMPA, this SES approach can also serve as an evaluation tool to assess expected and actual changes to linkages and feedbacks, and identify and plan for future outcomes of the PNMS.