People and ecosystems

Understanding of the links between coral reef ecosystems, the goods and services they provide to people, and the wellbeing of human societies.


Ecosystem dynamics: past, present and future

Examining the multi-scale dynamics of reefs, from population dynamics to macroevolution


Responding to a changing world

Advancing the fundamental understanding of the key processes underpinning reef resilience.

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Coral Reef Studies

From 2005 to 2022, the main node of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies was headquartered at James Cook University in Townsville, Queensland (Australia)

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Adaptive co-management of marine social-ecological systems


12.00pm - 1.00pm Thursday 19th August 2010

Sir George Fisher Building (DB 32) Conference Room 114 JCU
Louisa Evans, ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies

Louisa is a social scientist with interests in governance of marine systems in developing countries. Her research aims to understand different dimensions of governance: from the access and use arrangements that mediate how people interact directly with their environment, through the exchange and investment processes that determine how different stakeholders benefit from ecosystem services, to the impacts that the choices people make have on their future (livelihoods, adaptation options & resilience). In particular, Louisa’s research focuses on how institutions, as rules and norms, and people’s perceptions influence different dimensions of governance. Louisa will pursue these interests through research in the Solomon Islands and the Great Barrier Reef.


Adaptive co-management is an approach to governing resilient systems, which emphasises the learning and linkage functions of governance. As such, it has high normative appeal. But what do we know about its impact in practice? Co-management emerged primarily as a response to the failure of conventional, centralised, and top-down management. It has now been the predominant approach to small-scale fisheries management for over 20 years. Adaptive management evolved as an approach to managing uncertainty. Support for adaptive management was found initially in the study of traditional or customary management systems that were seen to be flexible, dynamic and persistent through time. There are limited examples of the implementation of adaptive management within processes of governance reform. This presentation will draw on two studies to evaluate the potential of adaptive co-management as a framework for governing resilient marine social-ecological systems in the developing world. The first study is a meta-analysis of co-management impact in small-scale fisheries to evaluate what we’ve learnt from 20 years experience. The second is a case-study of governance in practice in Kenya that aims to tease out the fundamental elements of adaptive management. The findings emphasise the gap between innovation in research and practice, which threatens to make normative conceptual frameworks redundant in the absence of greater understanding of the complex realities that coastal stakeholders are confronted with.


Australian Research Council Pandora

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