Data_Sheet_1_Participatory Qualitative Modeling to Assess the Sustainability of a Coastal Socio-Ecological System.ZIP
Assessing the sustainability of socio-ecological systems requires understanding the interactions between numerous ecological, economic and social components. Models are often used to investigate how interactions shape system feedbacks and drive the complex dynamics at play in such systems. However, building these models is a non-trivial exercise, which often neglects stakeholder knowledge and perceptions. We adopted a participatory approach that relies on conducting workshops to engage stakeholders into the development of qualitative models of system feedback. This type of participatory qualitative modeling is well suited to address the complexity of socio-ecological systems in a holistic manner, identify key stakes and feedbacks, and predict responses to perturbations. We use this approach to investigate the factors that condition sustainability of the socio-ecological system associated with shellfish aquaculture in the Normand-Breton Gulf in France. Six region-specific workshops were organized with shellfish producers, managers and other stakeholders to identify and describe key components, interactions and pressures that contribute to overall socio-ecological dynamics. Differences and commonalities in system perceptions were identified across the different regions and focus groups. We reconciled stakeholder-specific discrepancies in model structure into a synthetic representation that conciliates alternative views of the system. Next, we predicted how the system might respond to alternative scenarios of change. Overall, our participatory qualitative modeling exercise identified key drivers of the system under study that constitute effective management levers to maintain system sustainability. For instance, low social acceptability of the aquaculture industry generally appears to be a major constraint on the sustainability of shellfish aquaculture in the Normand-Breton Gulf, while reducing rearing density appears to be a key driver of sustainability.