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Social-Ecological Systems Meta-Analysis Database: Variables

Variable TypeOrdinal
Variable Component TypeEnvironmental Common
Variable KindComponent
ThemeBiophysical (learn about themes)
ProjectsSESMAD, Fiji fisheries
QuestionAre the boundaries that define the spatial extent of this commons clearly defined and highly visible?
Select Options1 Very unclear boundaries, 2 Somewhat unclear boundaries, 3 Clear boundaries
ImportanceThe presence and clarity of commons boundaries provides incentives for the management of the commons by increasing the likelihood that those that incur the costs of managing a resource are able to capture the benefits of its use (Ostrom 1990)

The existence and clarity of natural or anthropogenic barriers that delimit resource distribution and movement.

Clear boundaries: the limits of the commons are physically evident. This includes both natural elements and human-made artifacts that constrain the commons. Natural elements would include the biogeophysical limits of a watershed. Human-made artifacts would include fences that constrain a population of species.

Unclear boundaries: the boundaries of a commons are difficult to identify with precision. That is usually the case with the boundaries of migratory species and with many groundwater aquifer systems."


Theory Usages

TheoryValue Used
CBNRM design principlesClear boundaries
Commons boundaries and collective actionClear boundaries

Associated Studies

Study Citation

Ostrom, Elinor. 1990. Governing the Commons. New York: Cambridge University Press.

Component Usages

ComponentValue UsedExplanation
Tigris watershed 
Western Atlantic Bluefin Tuna Very unclear boundaries (1)Although the Western Atlantic Bluefin Tuna spawns in the Western Atlantic, they mix with the Eastern stock on feeding grounds. The extent of mixing is generally unknown.
Eastern Atlantic Bluefin TunaVery unclear boundaries (1)Although the Eastern Atlantic Bluefin Tuna is most commonly found on the Eastern side of the Atlantic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea, they also migrate across the 45th parallel which marks the official boundary between Eastern and Western stocks. The extent of this migration is generally unknown.
Community D Fish ResourcesVery unclear boundaries (1)Most members of the community were unable to identify the location of the PHC within the LMMA.
Community A Fish ResourcesClear boundaries (3)
Community C Fish ResourcesClear boundaries (3)
Community B Fish ResourcesClear boundaries (3)
Gulf of Nicoya fisheriesClear boundaries (3)
Galapagos Sea CucumberClear boundaries (3)Found in the coastal zone at 28-39 m depth. http://www.fao.org/docrep/007/y5501e/y5501e0e.htm
Forests in IndonesiaClear boundaries (3)The physical boundaries of the forests in Indonesia are clear. The forests are surrounded either by water (they are on islands) or by agricultural land, or by national borders (e.g. forests in Kalimantan, in the island of Borneo, which border with Malaysa). National borders may be the least clear of these boundaries, but they are nonetheless clear.
OzoneClear boundaries (3)
Ozone Depleting SubstancesClear boundaries (3)global in the stratosphere.
Rhine Point source pollutantsClear boundaries (3)Important portions of the river have been channeled and its water course is generally well defined
Rhine Non-point source pollutantsClear boundaries (3)Important portions of the river have been channeled and its water course is generally well defined
GBR coral coverClear boundaries (3)
GBR target fish 
GBR target fishSomewhat unclear boundaries (2)Some species are habitat-associated species and tend to mirror patterns in habitat cover. However, the resource is mobile horizontally and vertically and often crosses administrative boundaries (e.g., zoning) so is considered to have somewhat unclear boundaries.
Walt's forest 
Patagonian Toothfish Somewhat unclear boundaries (2)Depending on the toothfish population, boundaries are more or less clear. For example, boundaries for the Macquarie Island stock appear fairly clear since the vast majority of toothfish spend their whole lifecycle in the water around Macquarie Island (based on genetics and tag-recapture studies in which mover than 99% of recaptures were from the Macquarie population; MSC 2012). Note that at Macquarie, there is some movement of toothfish between the Southern and Northern fishing grounds; as well as a smaller but limited movement into areas governed by CCAMLR. For other toothfish stocks, the boundaries are less clear. For example, the South Indian Ocean population appears to occupy a rather large range over the Kerguelen Plateau and out to the Prince Edward Islands, but the boundaries of this population's distribution are still unknown (see Collins et al. 2010 and references therein).
NWHI Lobster FisheryClear boundaries (3)spiny and slipper lobsters are habitat associated species, although they do occur at different depths. They are found in different locations and concentrations around the NWHI, in higher and lower concentrations, but generally the boundaries are clear as to where fishing was permitted and now not permitted.
Macquarie Island Royal PenguinSomewhat unclear boundaries (2)Breeding boundaries are clear as they maintain high site fidelity to Macquarie island. However, less is known about their specific location and boundaries during the polar winter.
Wakatobi coral coverClear boundaries (3)Reefs are clearly delineated
Light Mantled AlbatrossSomewhat unclear boundaries (2)The general boundaries are fairly well defined to include the circumpolar region; but they are somewhat fuzzy at the margins.
Wakatobi Green TurtleSomewhat unclear boundaries (2)Generally have known foraging and nesting grounds (in Wakatobi these nesting islands are Runduma and Anano - at the NE boundaries of the MPA, foraging grounds are thought to be on the atolls at the south of the park), but migratory species generally found in tropical and subtropical waters
Wakatobi fish spawningClear boundaries (3)Spawning fish that have clear boundaries while aggregating, the times and locations of spawning are relatively predictable, no-take zones match up with spawning aggregation sites, and where they spill-over fishers are expected not to fish the aggregation (No-take zones not marked out by buoys but identified by spawning aggregation)
Galapagos Green TurtleSomewhat unclear boundaries (2)defined foraging and nesting grounds, however migratory boundaries are not well known
NWHI Trophic DensitySomewhat unclear boundaries (2)Some species are habitat-associated species and tend to mirror patterns in habitat cover. However, the resource is mobile horizontally and vertically and often crosses administrative boundaries (e.g., zoning) so is considered to have somewhat unclear boundaries.
Patagonian squid (Loligo gahi)Somewhat unclear boundaries (2)Generally known to be found on the Falkland Shelf, L. gahi is closely associated with the “Transient Zone” of mixed Shelf Waters with the Sub-Antarctic Superficial Water Mass of the Falkland Current (Arkhipkin et al. 2013a). Juveniles are found in shallow inshore waters <100m depth, while adults feed on the shelf edge (150-300m) (Arkhipkin et al. 2008). Females are found deeper than males (Arkhipkin et al. 2008). While general area, water conditions, and depths are known, boundaries remain unsure at any given time.
Raja Ampat Reef Fish Somewhat unclear boundaries (2)Some species are habitat-associated species and tend to mirror patterns in habitat cover. However, the resource is mobile horizontally and vertically and often crosses administrative boundaries (e.g., zoning) so is considered to have somewhat unclear boundaries.
Raja Ampat Coral CoverClear boundaries (3)Reefs are clearly recognized
King PenguinSomewhat unclear boundaries (2)King penguins were heavily harvested in the late 19th and early 20th century (in association with the sealing industry) and all colonies have since been recovering. Location of colonies and their recovery has been well studied. In many colonies their life history has also been well-studied, as well as their foraging range and behavior. However, their exact location at any given time is difficult to determine because they occupy different spaces during different times of their life history (see Woehler 2006; Bost et al. 2013 and references therein).
Galapagos SharksVery unclear boundaries (1)Many sharks are highly migratory and frequently travel out of the GMR boundaries, and to other eastern Pacific islands
Raja Ampat Green TurtleSomewhat unclear boundaries (2)Can be found in certain islands in the Raja Ampat area and have distinct nesting and foraging areas although they migrate throughout the entire area and are generally found in tropical and subtropical waters. The nesting locations in the Raja Ampat area are Wayag-Sayang, Ayau-Asia, Kofiau, Boo Isles, and Southeast Misool.
NWHI Green TurtleSomewhat unclear boundaries (2)Known nesting and foraging grounds, but a migratory species
California Rocky Shores Ecosystem HealthClear boundaries (3)Clear map indicating where this ecosystem is. Also fairly visible. Defined by four key zones: The Splash Zone: Few organisms survive here. Those that can (e.g., barnacles, limpets and a type of green algae) are almost always exposed to the air and are rarely submerged by water. The High Zone: Organisms that inhabit this zone are exposed to air more than 70 percent of the time and must develop adaptations to survive the long dry periods. For example, limpets, chitons and black turban snails form a watertight seal onto the rocks with their shells to protect themselves from drying out. The Mid Zone: This zone is densely populated. California mussels often form large beds that provide important refuge and habitat for a variety of other invertebrates and algae. The Low Zone: In this zone, organisms may be exposed to air just a few times a month so they are more resilient to waves and less resilient to air exposure. Inhabitants include the giant green anemone, the purple sea urchin, the sunflower star and the beautiful sea palm.
California Humpback WhaleSomewhat unclear boundaries (2)Humpback whales are migratory species, having the longest migration documented for any mammal (Stone et al. 1990). The California stock spends the winters in coastal Central America and Mexico and migrates to areas ranging from the coast of California to southern British Columbia in the summer and fall. Some have been known to migrate to Hawaii (Calambokidis et al. 2000).
California Groundfish HabitatSomewhat unclear boundaries (2)If a fisherman has the exact coordinates of the closed areas to groundfish fishing, it if quite clear with a GPS device where to fish. However, there are many specifications and species-specific closed areas that make it complex where one can fish for what. Rockfish Conservation Areas, or RCAs, are large-scale closed areas with trawl and non-trawl boundaries. These are very clear, but they shift every year or every couple of years according to conditions and assessments, causing some confusion. Within a year, certain seasons have certain specifications (e.g. Mar-April you can fish shore to the 200 fm line but May-June you can fish from the shore to the 150 fm line). Commercial and recreational fishing for groundfish, except "other flatfish" as specified at §§ 660.230, 660.330 and 660.360, is prohibited in waters of depths less than 100-fm (183-m) around Cordell Banks as defined by specific latitude and longitude coordinates at § 660.70. The State of California prohibits commercial and recreational fishing for groundfish (except fishing for "other flatfish" with certain hook and line gears, as specified at §§ 660.230, 660.330 and 660.360) in shallow waters between the shoreline and the 10 fm (18 m) depth contour around each of the Farallon Islands, which are in the Gulf of the Farallones NMS. The Essential fish habitat (EFH) are areas identified to be important to fish for spawning, breeding, feeding, or growth to maturity and these are very clear.
Svalbard Polar BearSomewhat unclear boundaries (2)The spatial extent of polar bears on & around Svalbard varies seasonally and between years depending on sea-ice extent. Female bears commonly show fidelity to den areas, but not to specific den sites (Garner et al 2004, Zeyl et al 2010). The bears of Svalbard are considered reasonably distinct, but part of a larger community of bears across northern Russia. By studying the movements of bears using telemetry, Mauritzen et al (2002) conclude that somewhat discrete populations exist, but that there is spatial overlap between bears within these subpopulations. Paetkai et al (1999) found that there was no substantial genetic difference between bears on Svalbard and north of Russia (and very little difference with East Greenland) suggesting the interbreeding of bears within this range. In the future, decreasing sea ice may restrict polar bear movement, and decrease the movement between regions.
Seaflower coral reefsClear boundaries (3)Coral reefs are found in shallow waters close to the shores and are distinct biogenic structures.
Seaflower groupersSomewhat unclear boundaries (2)Although they are mobile their site fidelity is relatively high.
Svalbard BelugaSomewhat unclear boundaries (2)Belugas have been observed on the coasts all around Svalbard (MOSJ 2013a [Online ]), but there is very little data about the extent of their range and habitat preferences. One telemetry study indicates that Svalbard belugas typically stay quite close to the coasts, and often spend time near freshwater inputs from calving glaciers and river mouths (Lyderson et al 2001). Seasonal movements (if there are any) are uncertain.
Community G Fish ResourcesClear boundaries (3)
Community F Fish ResourcesClear boundaries (3)
Community E Fish ResourcesClear boundaries (3)
Community H Fish ResourcesClear boundaries (3)
Svalbard ShrimpSomewhat unclear boundaries (2)Although the general locations of high density shrimp stocks remain similar across years, the specific locations of high density are slightly variable from year to year (NAFO 2012). Data also suggests that the shrimp population has been moving slightly eastward in recent years towards due to warming waters (Eriksen 2012 ).
GABMP (Commonwealth Waters) Southern Right WhaleSomewhat unclear boundaries (2)Australian coastal movements are reasonably well understood but little is known of migration travel, non-coastal movements and offshore habitat use. The whales forage and feed offshore in the summer months (from November to April) between at least 32 degrees South and 65 degrees South (Australia 2012) and have been observed as far south as the Antarctic (Bannister et al. 1999). From May to October, the breeding females occupy near-shore coastal calving and nursery areas that occur between 16 degrees South and 52 degrees South (IWC 2001; Werner et al. 2011).
GABMP (Commonwealth Waters) BenthosSomewhat unclear boundaries (2)The boundaries that define the spatial extent of this commons are biophysical and do not reflect the boundaries of the GABMP (CW). Species richness and biomass generally declines with increasing depth and distance offshore and benthic community composition was found to reflect the spatial distribution of the sedimentary facies on the shelf (Ward et al. 2003). In the deep-water survey, the infaunal communities of the BPZ slope were found to be more diverse than those found on the shallower waters of the adjacent continental shelf although, infaunal abundance declined with increasing depth (Currie and Sorokin 2011). Benthic communities have been found to be significantly different inside and adjacent to the Benthic Protection Zone (BPZ) of the GABMP (CW) (Ward et al. 2003; Currie et al. 2008)
GABMP (Commonwealth Waters) Southern Bluefin TunaSomewhat unclear boundaries (2)SBT have a circumglobal distribution and are found in oceans of the southern hemisphere, from the tropics to the sub-Antarctic (30–50° S). A single spawning ground is known, in the north-eastern Indian Ocean between Java and Western Australia (7 to 20 degrees south). The juveniles are thought to ride the Leeuwin Current down the coast of Western Australia to spend summer months in south Western Australia and the Great Australian Bight region with an unknown proportion heading westwards towards South Africa (Honda et al. 2010; NSW DPI FSC n.d.; Farley and Davis 1998). Two to four year old SBT school near the surface during the summer months (December - April) in the coastal waters of the Great Australian Bight and spend winter months either in deeper, temperate waters or seasonally migrate between the south coast of Australia and the central Indian Ocean (CCSBT 2009). After 5 years of age, SBT move offshore to deeper waters, swimming between feeding grounds, areas of high productivity spread between New Zealand and South Africa (Farley et al. 2007). As mature adults they join the spawning migration to the tropics below Java.
GBR Green TurtleSomewhat unclear boundaries (2)Green turtles are known to migrate to foraging areas and to nesting beaches, but where exactly various populations of turtles spend their time is not well known. One telemetry study has shown that most turtles have their own ‘home-range’ (Gredzens et al 2014), and turtles show strong site fidelity to their nesting beaches (Limpus et al 2003).
Cenderwasih coral cover 
Cenderwasih green turtleSomewhat unclear boundaries (2)Generally have known foraging and nesting grounds (The islands of Nusambier, Iwari, Kuwom, Matas and Wairundi and several mainland beaches have been recorded as turtle nesting beaches). But green turtles are a migratory species and found in tropical and subtropical waters so coded as somewhat unclear.
GABMP (Commonwealth Waters) Sea Lion Australian endemic species restricted to South and Western Australia. It has known breeding grounds, and foraging grounds are though to extend across a large proportion of the shelf adjacent to south Australia.
Svalbard Kittiwake 
Cenderwasih target fishSomewhat unclear boundaries (2)Some species are habitat-associated species and tend to mirror patterns in habitat cover. However, the resource is mobile horizontally and vertically and often crosses administrative boundaries (e.g., zoning) so is considered to have somewhat unclear boundaries.
Arrow Squid (Nototodarus spp.)Somewhat unclear boundaries (2)Both species are found over the continental shelf in water up to 500 m depth, though they are most prevalent in water less than 300 m depth. N. sloanii is found off the south-east coast of the North Island, off the west coast of the South Island and as far north as Cape Egmont on the west coast of the North Island (where it forms less than 10% of the arrow squid catch), off the east coast of the South Island, on the Chatham Rise and off the Snares and Auckland Islands (Smith et al. 1987). N. gouldi Distribution: Around New Zealand the species is found off the east and west coasts of the North Island, and the central, north-west, and north-east coasts of the South Island as far south as Banks Peninsula: Fig. 5 (Smith 1985). It is most frequently caught between 50- 300 m and juveniles are most abundant at about 100 m (Mattlin et al. 1985) (Smith et al. 1987). When found, are patchy. More unclear than clear.
California market squid (Loligo opalescens)Somewhat unclear boundaries (2)The range of market squid is from the southern tip of Baja California, Mexico (23° N latitude) to southeastern Alaska (55° N latitude). Juveniles and adults range throughout the California and Alaska Current systems (Roper and Sweeney 1984). Generally know historical grounds, but moves according to conditions.
New Zealand Sea Lion 
Mangrove forest in Bragança, BrazilSomewhat unclear boundaries (2)Coastal mangrove ecosystem is continuous, but the biophysical boundaries of the extractive reserve are situated between the Caeté and Taperaçú rivers on the Bragança Peninsula.
Lombok aquaculture irrigation canalsClear boundaries (3)
Coral reefs, coast and small-island on and surrounding Gili Trawangan, IndonesiaClear boundaries (3)