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Social-Ecological Systems Meta-Analysis Database: Variables

Variable TypeOrdinal
Variable Component TypeEnvironmental Common
Variable KindComponent
ThemeKnowledge and uncertainty (learn about themes)
QuestionHow predictable is the availability or prevalence of this commons from year to year?
Select Options1 Low, 2 Moderate, 3 High
ImportanceInterannual predictability affects the extent to which resource users and/or managers can have an understanding of biophysical dynamics and thus plan for their management over multiple years. Greater certainty (or more predictability) increases the likelihood that actors manage their resources sustainably.

"The extent to which it is possible to predict the availability of a resource across years. This generally forms an inverse relationship with the level of uncertainty. Low: Year to year variation does not follow a discernible pattern High: Year to year variation is low or follows a known pattern"


Theory Usages

TheoryValue Used
Uncertainty and depletion of natural resourcesLow
Common property quotas Low

Component Usages

ComponentValue UsedExplanation
Tigris watershed 
Western Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Moderate (2)The availability of Western Atlantic Bluefin Tuna can be predicted using scientific methodologies such as virtual population analysis. However, these figures are highly contested, and several uncertainties remain. Nonetheless, relative magnitudes can be assessed given a consistent methodology.
Galapagos Sea CucumberModerate (2)Sea cucumbers are density-dependent for reproduction - and the minimum density required is unknown. They take approximately 4 years to mature. Recruitment rates vary due to climate and oceanic conditions (e.g. el nino)
Forests in IndonesiaHigh (3)Like most forests, there is little interannual change in the prevalence of the forest. However, forest fires, which are not fully predictable, may affect the availability of this commons unexpectedly.
Eastern Atlantic Bluefin TunaModerate (2)Stocks of Eastern Atlantic Bluefin Tuna are moderately predictable, but scientific assessments are highly contested and it is generally acknowledged that there are important uncertainties regarding the size of stocks, and the methodologies used to estimate spawning stock biomass. However, given the use of consistent methodologies the relative magnitude of stocks can be ascertained.
OzoneHigh (3)
Ozone Depleting SubstancesHigh (3)Producers all know what is being produced.
Rhine Point source pollutantsModerate (2)Pollution by the chemical industry can be moderately predicted in the mid-term by the economic activity of the industry and the nation in general.
Rhine Non-point source pollutantsModerate (2)Pollution by the agricultural sector (main source of diffuse pollution) can be moderately predicted in the mid-term by the economic activity of the sector and the nation in general.
GBR coral coverHigh (3)
GBR target fish 
GBR target fishModerate (2)
Walt's forest 
Patagonian Toothfish Moderate (2)Most know Patagonian toothfish populations have been targeted in commercial fisheries on an annual basis since the mid to late 1990s and can predictably be caught from year to year. Genetic, otolith chemistry and parasite fauna studies all suggest that there are distinct populations of toothfish (one in the South Indian Ocean, one in the Atlantic sector, one off of Patagonia, and one around Macquarie; See Collins et al. 2010 and references therein). Further, tag-recapture studies indicate that most individual toothfish within a stock stays close by from year to year. For example, in the Heard and McDonald Islands (HIMI) fishery, 99% of recaptured toothfish were caught within 30 km of where they were tagged 1-3 years prior (Williams et al. 2002). However, in most stocks there are individuals that also exhibit vast travels. For example, in the HIMI fishery, some fish were recaptured up to 1850 km away (on the Crozet Plateau; Williams et al. 2002).
NWHI Lobster FisheryModerate (2)The availability of the lobster species can be predicted with population dynamics models that have been conducted over a twenty-year period. There are some ecological gaps in knowledge.
Macquarie Island Royal PenguinHigh (3)Populations have remained stable; and annual breeding on Macquarie island allows for fairly accurate estimates of population size, although some breeding grounds are more difficult to access.
Light Mantled AlbatrossModerate (2)Availability across years is somewhat unpredictable because they are biennial breeders and do not return each year. Further, breeding sites are on remote and difficult to access subantarctic islands. At many of these islands, scientists are not able to collect data regularly and often the actual location of the nests can be difficult to access. Estimates suggest that the population at Macquarie might be more predictable than others and also that its more stable. Other sites exhibit considerable variability or uncertainty. For example, the population at Heard Island has been estimated at 200-500 nesting pairs, but its difficult for scientists to find all of the nests and the birds often nest in new and different areas. Note that the last survey of this species at Macquarie was conducted in 2005 (ACAP 2012) and at Heard Island in 2003/04 season (Green and Woehler 2006).
Wakatobi coral coverHigh (3)
Wakatobi Green TurtleModerate (2)Migratory but likely to return to particular nesting beaches every couple of years. Long-living. But vulnerable to rapid declines year on year if threatened by human activity.
Wakatobi fish spawningModerate (2)
Galapagos Green TurtleModerate (2)Migratory species and number of males is not well understood, however females predictably return to the same nesting beaches every couple years. Approximate numbers fairly predictable.
NWHI Trophic DensityModerate (2)
Raja Ampat Reef Fish Moderate (2)
Raja Ampat Coral CoverHigh (3)
Galapagos SharksModerate (2)Migratory, but some species through to have important aggregation sites in GMR. Sharks are regularly recorded
Raja Ampat Green TurtleModerate (2)Migratory but likely to return to particular nesting beaches every 3-4 years. Long-living. But vulnerable to rapid declines year on year if threatened by human activity.
NWHI Green TurtleModerate (2)Migratory but likely to return to particular nesting beaches every couple of years. Long-living. But vulnerable to rapid declines if threatened by human activity.
California Rocky Shores Ecosystem HealthHigh (3)Ecosystem fairly constant, habitat does not move and home to many sessile animals. Studies have shown that the California rocky intertidal communities are fairly uniform and predictable (Connell 1972; Horn et. al 1983). Rocky shore habitats are very sensitive to pollution, oil spills, invasive species, and fluctuating air and ocean temperatures, providing some variables to take into account when predicting the commons. Rocky shore habitat assemblages appear to have less interannual variation than seasonal variation (Foster et al. 1988, Kinnetic Laboratories Inc. 1992).
California Humpback WhaleModerate (2)Whales are almost certain to pass through the Sanctuary every year, but the number of whales to do so is less certain. The time of year for humpbacks to exist in Sanctuary waters is expected, but sometimes migration is a little later or early (as was in 2014).
California Groundfish HabitatModerate (2)Extensive large-scale recruitment studies have been conducted to determine which years are strong rockfish recruitment. Using the SMURF method (Standard Monitoring Unit for the Recruitment of Fishes), the number of recruits is determined for each recruitment season. Since groundfish are fairly long lived and take many years to grow to maturity, often times predictions are for the fishery in 6 to 30 years time instead of in that year or in the next few years. Climate and upwelling trends have known relationships with recruitment rates. During stock assessments, forecasts for stock size and catch are completed for most species. Stock assessments are done for blue rockfish, California scorpionfish, California sheepshead, Gopher rockfish, Arrowtooth Flounder, Aurora Rockfish, Bank Rockfish, Black Rockfish, Blackgill Rockfish, Blue Rockfish, Bocaccio Rockfish, Cabezon, California Scorpionfish, Canary Rockfish, Chilipepper Rockfish, Cowcod, Darkblotched Rockfish, Dover Sole, English Sole, Gopher Rockfish, Greenspotted Rockfish, Greenstriped Rockfish, Kelp Greenling, Lingcod, Longnose Skate, Longspine Thornyhead, Pacific Ocean Perch, Pacific Sanddab, Pacific Whiting (Hake), Petrale Sole, Sablefish, Sebastes Complex, Shortbelly Rockfish, Shortspine Thornyhead, Spiny Dogfish, Splitnose Rockfish, Starry Flounder, Thornyheads, Vermilion Rockfish, Widow Rockfish, Yelloweye Rockfish, and Yellowtail Rockfish. The habitat for groundfish is usually always there, but sometimes shifts, thus the RCA (Rockfish Conservation Area) coordinates shift from year to year.
Svalbard Polar BearHigh (3)There are several regions within the East Svalbard Nature Reserves which are known to be important for polar bears (e.g. Kong Karls land), however polar bear density by region may vary slightly from year to year depending on sea-ice extent. As a relatively long-lived species with slow reproduction, polar bear populations do not fluctuate extensively from year to year (as compared with a species such as capelin).
Seaflower coral reefsHigh (3)Once established, coral reefs are quite stable and predictable from year to year
Seaflower groupersModerate (2)Groupers are long lived species and have relatively high site fidelity.
Svalbard BelugaModerate (2)Belugas are observed along the coasts of Svalbard each year (MOSJ 2013a [Online]), but there are no population estimates for the Belugas.
Svalbard ShrimpHigh (3)Despite modest population fluctuations and geographic movements, shrimp are quite predictable from year to year.
GABMP (Commonwealth Waters) Southern Right WhaleModerate (2)Females demonstrate high site fidelity, returning to the same calving grounds every 3 - 4 years (Burnell 2001). Females have been shown to alter selected calving habitat in years of high abundance at the Head of Bight (Burnell, 2012). Female on average calve every 3 - 4 years and this triennial calving cycle has resulted in cohort structured breeding groups in Australia, with peaks in abundance of the primary breeding group every 3 years. Annual population or cohort sizes and compositions in Australian waters reflect the 3-4 year calving cycle of females and as a result, full population assessments are only possible from extended time series of population abundance indices.
GABMP (Commonwealth Waters) BenthosMissingThe marine ecosystems of the GAB have received less research attention than other areas of temperate Australia because of its remote location. Species composition of the benthic communities in the GABMP were unknown prior to Park implementation.There is little information on the benthic communities or environmental factors that affect their patterns of distribution or abundance. The first quantitative epibenthic survey of the region was undertaken in 2002 and was aimed at assessing the effectiveness of the GAB BPZ in representing regional biodiversity (Ward et al. 2003, 2006). The 2002 sites were re-surveyed in 2006 and the patchy distributions in the populations of species suggested that a high proportion of the benthic fauna residing in and around the BPZ has not yet been sampled. A preliminary assessment of the deepwater benthic communities of the GABMP beyond the shelf-break was conducted in 2011 (Currie and Sorokin, 2011).
GABMP (Commonwealth Waters) Southern Bluefin TunaModerate (2)The availability or prevalence of SBT are predicted using scientific stock assessment methods. There is controversy over management actions and initiatives (e.g. implications of alternative interpretations of catch per unit effort) for bluefin tuna (Butterworth et al. 2003) but if a consistent methodology is followed relative magnitudes can be assessed.
King PenguinHigh (3)King Penguins are well studied with the location of breeding colonies well known. Most local populations have stabilized since being overexploited in the past (see Bost et al. 2013 and references therein).
GBR Green TurtleModerate (2)Since turtles are a long-lived species with slow reproduction, we might expect the population to have similar numbers of turtles each year. Nesting data indicates that there are considerable fluctuations in the number of nesting turtles each year, and these fluctuations show correlation with the Southern Oscillation Index (i.e. El Nino) (Limpus et al 2003, Chaloupka et al 2008). However, since females do not nest every year, it is difficult to suggest overall population numbers from the number of turtles which prepared to nest in a given year.
Cenderwasih coral coverHigh (3)
Cenderwasih green turtleModerate (2)Migratory but likely to return to particular nesting beaches every couple of years. Long-living. But vulnerable to rapid declines year on year if threatened by human activity.
GABMP (Commonwealth Waters) Sea LionModerate (2)Supra-annual breeding cycle of 17-18 months = pupping seasons do not occur at the same time each year, making predictions difficult (Shaughnessy et al. 2011)
Svalbard KittiwakeModerate (2)Kittiwakes return to the same colonies each year to breed - mixed trend across all colonies http://www.mosj.no/en/fauna/marine/black-legged-kittiwake.html
Cenderwasih target fishModerate (2)
Patagonian squid (Loligo gahi)Low (1)Predicting the stock status from year to year is very difficult since there is a very weak stock-recruitment relationship. The annual life cycle of D. gahi, together with high interannual variation in the abundance of the two cohorts (ASC and SSC), makes it difficult to use methods of stock assessment and fishery management developed for long-living fish species (Rosenberg et al., 1990) (Arkhipkin et al. 2013a). Weak stock–recruitment relationships make even short-term population forecasts difficult as these depend not only on abundance of spawners but also on the fluctuating environment (Agnew et al., 2000, 2002) (Arkhipkin et al. 2013b).
Arrow Squid (Nototodarus spp.)Low (1)It is not practical to predict future stock size in advance of the fishing season (MF 2009). There are no estimates of current or reference biomass available and there is no reliable method to estimate yields from the squid fishery before the fishing season begins. This is partly because squid are assumed to live for approximately one year and partly because there are no surveys of squid abundance.
California market squid (Loligo opalescens)Low (1)Very difficult to determine, based on conditions.
New Zealand Sea Lion