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Scale issues in marine ecosystems and human interactions

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Understanding the reciprocal interactions between humans and marine ecosystems has several fundamental difficulties, in particular compatible methodologies and different analytical scales. The issue of scale is central, as the scales chosen for studies of marine systems and human interactions can constrain recognition of the drivers and responses of these systems to global changes. The essential task is to discover how to combine social and natural science scale analyses to understand the impact of natural systems on people and the impact of people on natural systems. We identify characteristic spatial, temporal and organizational scales in marine ecosystems and human interactions, and the difficulties inherent in their cross-disciplinary application. An approach is suggested focusing on communities of fish and fishers that makes explicit: (1) the need to manage marine resources in such a way as to encompass global to local scales; (2) recognition of the complementary nature of organizational scales between the natural and social sciences and use of appropriate natural science scales in the development of management policies; (3) the need to be aware of shifting temporal baselines and the representative nature of the data over time, for both social and natural sciences; and (4) caution regarding predictive models when humans are included. In terms of methodologies, good scale matches occur across large-scale social and natural science models and surveys, but problems remain in small-scale qualitative social studies and in cross-scale studies. Cumulative case studies appear to provide the best approach, although ‘integrating up’ remains a challenge. Natural and social scientists need to work together to identify these issues of ecosystem processes and human interactions, and their appropriate scales.
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Keywords: fisheries; inter-discipline; management; natural science; scales; social science; space; time

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Special Projects, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia V8W 2Y2, Canada

Publication date: 01 September 2003

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