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Two papers published in Nature

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Two papers published in Nature

This past week Professor Allison co-authored not one, but two papers published in the journal Nature. The studies published represent two different aspects of his work: one takes a statistical approach to 'big data' in order to glean understanding from global patterns of reef health, while the other focuses on the role fish play in nutrition worldwide. Both are global in scale. 

 

1. 'Bright Spots' in Coral Reefs 

Lead by Joshua Cinner of James Cook University, the first paper is a truly collaborative effort with nearly 40 authors representing over 30 institutions. With a forward-looking approach, the gaggle of researchers champion the idea that outliers are not just anomalies, but sources of potential game-changing information. They apply this concept to the future of coral reefs by identifying and learning from both 'bright spots' and 'dark spots' - in other words, reefs that are doing better than might be expected and those that are doing worse than would typically be expected. After compiling data from more than 2,500 reefs worldwide, the authors identified 15 bright spots and 35 dark spots. The study revealed that bright spots are characterized by strong sociocultural institutions, high levels of local engagement in management, high dependence on marine resources and beneficial environmental conditions.

Bright and dark spot locations (b) and the extent to which they deviated from expected biomass levels (a). Almost all bright spots are located in the Pacific Ocean.

Bright and dark spot locations (b) and the extent to which they deviated from expected biomass levels (a). Almost all bright spots are located in the Pacific Ocean.

Other authors include Tim McClanahan of Wildlife Conservation Society, Stuart Sandin of Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Jack Kittinger of Conservation International Hawaii, Larry Crowder of Stanford's Center for Ocean Solutions and Rashid Sumaila of University of British Columbia's Fisheries Economics Research Unit.

 

2. Fish Catch and Human Health

The second paper is lead by Christopher Golden of Harvard University and Professor Allison and presents calculations suggesting that declining numbers of marine fish will lead to malnutrition for 11 percent of the global population, or 845 million people. The authors note that fish are an important source of micronutrients - such as zinc, vitamin-A, and iron - in addition to their more widely acknowledged role of providing protein. By combining data on fish catch and dietary nutrition, the study suggests that low-latitude developing nations, in which human health is most dependent on fish, will also be the most impacted by decreases in fish catch and availability.

Projected changes in marine catch globally.

Projected changes in marine catch globally.

The other authors on the study are William W.L.Cheung, Madan M. Dey, Douglas J. McCauley, Matthew Smith, Bapu Vaitla, Dirk Zeller and Samuel S. Meyers.

Read more about Allison’s work in the UW Today articles Bright spots’ shine light on the future of coral reefs & Falling fish catches could mean malnutrition in the developing world.

 

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Allison and Bassett review paper on climate change, oceans and societies published in Science

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Allison and Bassett review paper on climate change, oceans and societies published in Science

Professor Allison and Graduate Student and Research Assistant, Hannah Bassett, authored a review paper published in Science this past week. The paper, "Climate change in the oceans: Human impacts and responses" was part of a special issue of Science dedicated to informing the upcoming COP21 meeting in Paris. 

The 2015 Paris Climate Conference, or COP21, will convene 195 countries with the aim of achieving a legally binding and universal agreement to keep global warming below 2°C. Prior COP meetings have been significant historically, with adoption of the Kyoto Protocol taking place at COP3 and initiation of the Green Climate Fund occurring at COP17 in Durban.

In the review, Allison and Bassett discuss impacts of ocean climate change on societies, societal responses, and possible roles of the ocean in climate change mitigation and adaptation. As a call to action, they draw attention to the need for increased climate science and policy that focuses on effects of climate change on the oceans, human systems and their interactions.

The release of this paper was covered in UW Today and the full paper can be accessed here

 

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Which should come first in fishery improvement projects: sustainability improvements or market access? Dr. Allison co-author on Science paper released today

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Which should come first in fishery improvement projects: sustainability improvements or market access? Dr. Allison co-author on Science paper released today

Dr. Allison is a co-author on a paper released today in Science, entitled "Secure sustainable seafood from developing countries". In this Policy Forum paper, Allison and co-authors call attention to the complexity of fishery improvement project implementation especially in regards to the potential for unintended impacts in developing country fisheries. For more information see the UW press release copied below or the full paper in Science.


Demand for seafood from wild fisheries and aquaculture around the world has nearly doubled over the past four decades. In the past several years, major seafood retailers in developed countries have committed to source their seafood from only sustainably certified fisheries and aquaculture, even though it is not clear where that supply will come from. 
A team of researchers has evaluated fishery improvement projects, which are designed to bring seafood from wild fisheries to the certified market while promising sustainability in the future. In a policy paper appearing May 1 in Science, they conclude these projects need to be fine tuned to ensure that fisheries are delivering on their promises.

"Fishery improvement projects are a good idea for sustaining fisheries that supply developed countries like the U.S., but they don't reach the small-scale fisheries supplying local markets in Africa and Asia that employ the vast majority of the world's fisher folk and support a larger proportion of the world's fish consumers," said co-author Edward Allison, a University of Washington professor of marine and environmental affairs.

"Nevertheless, with the E.U. and North America being among the largest markets for the seafood that is exported from developed countries, making this export-orientated part of the seafood system sustainable would help sustain some of their major fishery resources."

Retailers such as Walmart in the U.S. and Sainsbury's in the U.K. have promised that soon all the fresh, frozen, farmed and wild seafood they sell will come from sustainable sources. Respected private third-party certification programs like the Marine Stewardship Council are helping to ensure compliance with standards designed to help conserve fish populations and protect oceans.

While many of the sustainability standards have been met by commercial fisheries in the developed world, fisheries in developing countries make up only 7 percent of the council's certified fisheries, even though these developing-country fisheries account for about half of all seafood entering the international market.

Sustaining fisheries that supply the seafood choices of well-fed consumers in developed countries could lead to neglect of the management needs of fisheries that supply poorer consumers in developing countries, Allison said.

"While the fish imported to the U.S. from poorer countries helps their economies, we do need to leave space for small-scale fishers and fish traders to stay in business, and we shouldn’t let our developed-world appetite for sustainable seafood override more pressing needs for food, employment and the survival of their societies and cultures," he said. "This means also supporting local community-based management and local marketing systems."

Fishery improvement projects have been developed to get fisheries on a path to sustainability. These projects involve partnerships between the fishermen and firms up and down the international seafood supply chain. The partnerships must create market incentives for continual improvements by allowing seafood from these developing-country fisheries to enter the potentially more lucrative export market for certified seafood.

"It is hoped that the projects will protect marine life and ecosystems in areas where local and national governments have not acted to oversee sustainable practices, while also satisfying the demand for sustainable seafood," said Gabriel Sampson, a UC Davis graduate student and lead author of the study. 

Fishery management reforms should include data collection and ongoing monitoring, strengthening harvest and access rights to the resources, limits on the catch, and instituting traceability throughout the supply chain, the researchers say. They suggest, for example, that if access to the fisheries is not better regulated, the current efforts by retailers to secure sustainable, wild-caught seafood could stimulate a "race to fish" and ultimately undermine the sustainability claims.

Without the proper safeguards to ensure progress and reforms in fishery improvement projects, fisheries with full sustainability certification – such as that provided by the Marine Stewardship Council – could find their market benefits diluted by the increased competition for a share of the global certified seafood market.

The researchers project that multiple types of certified seafood in the market could lead to a "race to the bottom" in terms of sustainability standards, unless the fisheries improvement projects are carefully monitored to make sure that seafood retailers closely adhere to the sustainable-improvement requirements for market access.

Other co-authors are James Sanchirico and J. Edward Taylor of UC Davis; Cathy Roheim of the University of Idaho in Moscow; Simon Bush of Wageningen University in the Netherlands; James Anderson of the University of Florida in Gainesville; Natalie Ban of the University of Victoria in Canada; Rod Fujita of the Environmental Defense Fund; Stacy Jupiter of the Wildlife Conservation Society; and Jono Wilson of The Nature Conservancy.

This research was funded by the David and Lucile Packard Foundation. Allison's work on food security was also funded by the Rockefeller Foundation.

This story was adapted from a UC Davis news release.

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Does the concept of resilience serve to bridge academic fields and why is it relevant to fisheries studies?

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Does the concept of resilience serve to bridge academic fields and why is it relevant to fisheries studies?

MARINA post-doctoral researcher, Denis Hellebrandt (University of East Anglia), and colleagues at the University of Exeter and Arizona State University have recently published a paper entitled, “Boundary object or bridging concept? A citation network analysis of resilience”. The paper appears in Ecology and Society, a prestigious open-access journal founded by the Resilience Alliance. Here Dr. Hellebrandt discusses their study and its relevance to fisheries studies:

 Resilience is a popular concept in many fields but its precise definition varies slightly between fields such as engineering, ecology, and social sciences. In all cases, however, “the definitions relate to the ability of a system to respond to change while maintaining specific attributes (or functions and controls)” as defined in our recently published study, Baggio et al (2015). Precisely because of its malleability and pervasiveness, resilience has the potential to act as a common ground on which different disciplines can stand together, using the concept to frame their interdisciplinary work.

 Specifically, resilience thinking has framed research into marine issues for decades, with much of the seminal work in resilience drawing heavily on empirical evidence from small-scale fisheries cases (Berkes and Folke 2008). A more recent trend, the effective merging of resilience and social-ecological systems approaches (Fabinyi et al 2014), is again observed in a wide range of studies applied to fisheries. Several scholars have used empirical studies (Béné et al 2011) or synthesis of knowledge about fisheries (Coulthard 2012) to advance critical arguments on the use of resilience thinking and related system approaches.

 Therefore, further reading on resilience and its role in interdisciplinarity is likely to be useful to anyone with an interest in fisheries, particularly those who understand them as coupled social and ecological systems.

 Our analysis presented in Baggio et al (2015) probes how well the concept of resilience brings together different schools of thought, as well as its potential to foster dialogue. We looked at the role of resilience as a "boundary object" (an entity shared by several different communities but viewed or used differently by each of them) or "bridging concept" (an entity that serves to brings disparate concepts together in an integrative way), two closely related yet distinct perspectives on interdisciplinarity. The study applied bibliometric and social network analysis to 994 papers and 35,952 citations to reveal the connectedness and links between and within fields. We found that, with few exceptions, "most papers cite exclusively within their own field" and despite evidence of "shared understandings across diverse disciplines and fields", "distinct fields do not widely or routinely refer to each other".

 Even though our findings indicate that resilience is only partially effective in bridging academic fields, the concept might have a more influential role amongst the policy community and in connecting scientists, policy-makers and practitioners as noted in other syntheses (Davoudi et al 2012, Brown 2012). These findings suggest that, given the complexity of fisheries, and in particular of their governance, the fisheries field is bound to remain fertile ground for applications of resilience as well as for further tests of its power to foster dialogue and innovation in research and practice.

Citation and web link:

Baggio, J. A., K. Brown, and D. Hellebrandt. 2015. Boundary object or bridging concept? A citation network analysis of resilience. Ecology and Society 20(2): 2. http://www.ecologyandsociety.org/vol20/iss2/art2/

  

References

Béné et al. 2011. Testing resilience thinking in a poverty context: Experience from the Niger River basin. Global Environmental Change 21: 1173–1184

Berkes and Folke. 1998. Linking social and ecological systems: management practices and social mechanisms for building resilience. cambridge University Press, Cambridge, UK.

Brown, K. 2012. Policy discourses of resilience. Pages 37-50 in M. Pelling, D. Manuel-Navarrete and M. Redclift, editors. Climate change and the crisis of capitalism: a chance to reclaim self, society and nature. Routledge, London, UK.

Coulthard, S. 2012. Can we be both resilient and well, and what choices do people have? Incorporating agency into the resilience debate from a fisheries perspective. Ecology and Society 17(1):4.

Davoudi, S. et al. 2012. Resilience: a bridging concept or a dead end? Planning Theory and Practice 13(2):299-333.

Fabinyi et al 2014. Social-ecological systems, social diversity, and power: insights from anthropology and political ecology. Ecology and Society 19(4):28.

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