[vc_row][vc_column][vc_column_text]Towards the integration of the natural capital in marine-coastal planning by participatory processes: the case of seagrass meadows
World’s coastal environments are home of many human activities that are affecting or altering ecological and biogeochemical cycles as well as reducing their capacity to supply ecosystem services. As a consequence of altering natural ecosystems like seagrass meadows, which play an important role in the delivering of goods and services, we are endangering our economical development and wellbeing.
To reverse this degradation process it is required an integrated and coherent management to secure sustainable development and preserve coastal and marine ecosystems. We need new approaches, methods and tools to integrate the importance of nature in coastal planning decisions.
This Doctoral Thesis investigates the ecological, social and institutional dimensions of the synergies and trade-offs between seagrasses and human activities operating in the Natura 2000 protected site of San Simón Bay (Galicia, NW Spain). By means of a multidisciplinary approach that brings together the development of a biological inventory combined with participatory processes we get key spatial and contextual understanding regarding how, where and why marine users interact with seagrasses and how seagrasses are considered in policymaking.
This research study demonstrates how interactions between seagrasses and human activity involve a wide range of synergies and trade-offs. Seagrass meadows have been shown to support commercial fishing activities and consequently the wellbeing of local populations. However, there are conflicting accounts of the effects of shellfisheries. On the one hand, seagrasses can contribute positively to the productivity of shellfish beds, but on the other hand a model based on the exploitation of cultured bivalves threatens their preservation and survival. Regarding the institutional dimension, the compatibility between management plans and regulations in the area revealed also unresolved conflicts among conservation goals and other policy objectives and generally, seagrasses fall outside the decision making processes.
The participatory mapping of seagrass resources and human activities shows how the synergies and trade-offs among human uses and seagrasses vary depending on their distribution. Understanding the spatial dynamics in the use of the seascape is key not only in locating problems and resources but also in setting up realistic and holistic management initiatives. To achieve a more sustainable resource management system this research shows the importance of exploratory participatory processes for identifying the multifunctional nature of seagrass meadows. This will favour the development of measures made to cater to the complexity of the interactions that humans have with the seagrass.
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