Capturing change in ecosystem service delivery from coral reefs

Woodhead, Anna and Graham, Nick and Hicks, Christina and Williams, Gareth and Norström, Albert (2021) Capturing change in ecosystem service delivery from coral reefs. PhD thesis, Lancaster University.

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Ecosystems around the world are changing due to interacting local and global stressors. These changes are likely to affect ecosystem services - the benefits that ecosystems contribute to human wellbeing - but the complexity of social-ecological processes underpinning these services limits our understanding change. In this thesis, I examine changes in ecosystem services associated with climate-impacted tropical coral reefs and implications for the wellbeing of coastal communities. I draw on empirical data from the Seychelles, where two mass bleaching events (1998, 2016) have affected benthic and fish community composition. I first provide an overview of coral reef ecosystem services research and use empirical interview data from tourism and fishery key informants to understand the social-ecological aspects of services at the level of the service provider. This reveals the complexity of service providers underpinning locally valued services and benefits, but also the advantages of dis-aggregating service providers and their traits to understand how services are likely to respond to environmental change. Shifting from conceptualisations of change to lived experiences of change, I then explore how changes in ecosystem services are perceived by coral reef fishers. Changes have been perceived, though perceptions differ according to fishers’ characteristics, and have implications for the material, relational and subjective dimensions of fishers’ wellbeing. Finally, I draw on a social wellbeing approach to examine how the marine environment, and changes therein, affect fishers’ understanding of and ability to live well. This reveals tensions in fishers’ ability to pursue wellbeing, shaped by the social-ecological context in which changes to nearshore environments occur. These findings have implications for how changes in ecosystem services are investigated and highlight the need for multiple disciplinary perspectives to better understand the consequences of environmental change for human wellbeing.

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Thesis (PhD)
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06 Apr 2021 09:05
Last Modified:
29 Feb 2024 00:25