A network perspective on ecosystems, societies and natural resource management

University dissertation from Stockholm : Institutionen för systemekologi

Abstract: This thesis employs a network perspective in studying ecosystems and natural resource management. It explores the structural characteristics of social and/or ecological networks and their implications on societies’ and ecosystems’ ability to adapt to change and to cope with disturbances while still maintaining essential functions and structures (i.e. resilience).Paper I introduces terminology from the network sciences and puts these into the context of ecology and natural resource management. Paper II and III focus on habitat fragmentation and how it affects an agricultural landscape in southern Madagascar. Two ecosystem services were addressed: (1) crop pollination by bees, and (2) seed dispersal by ring-tailed lemurs. It is shown that the fraction of the studied landscape presently covered by both crop pollination and seed dispersal is surprisingly high, but that further removal of the smallest habitat patches in the study area could have a severe negative impact on the landscape’s capacity to support these ecosystem services.In Papers IV and V, the network approach is used to study social networks and the impact they may have on the management of natural resources. In Paper IV it is found that social networks of low- to moderate link densities (among managers) significantly increase the probability for relatively high and stable utility returns whereas high link densities cause occasional large-scale ecological crises between periods of stable and excessively high utility returns. In Paper V, social networks of a rural fishing community in eastern Africa were analyzed. The results indicate that patterns of communication partly explain the distribution of ecological knowledge among villagers, and that gear type used by small-scale coastal fishermen strongly correlates with their patterns of communication. The results also show that groups most central in the network, and hence potentially most influential, are dominated by one type of fishermen.