PUBLICATION • Journal article
Maintaining cooperation in social-ecological systems: Effective bottom-up management often requires sub-optimal resource use
Natural resources are vulnerable to overexploitation in the absence of effective management. However, norms, enforced by social ostracism, can promote cooperation and increase stock biomass in common-pool resource systems. Unfortunately, the long-term sustainable use of a resource is not assured even if cooperation, maintained by ostracism and aimed at optimizing resource use, exists. Here, using the example of fisheries, we show that for a cooperative to be maintained by ostracism over time, it often must act inefficiently, choosing a ‘secondbest’ strategy where the resource is over-harvested to some degree. Those cooperatives that aim for maximum sustainable profit, the “first-best” harvest strategy, are more vulnerable to invasion by independent harvesters, leading to larger declines in the fish population. In contrast, second-best strategies emphasize the resistance to invasion by independent harvesters over maximizing yield or profit. Ultimately, this leads to greater long-run payoffs to the resource users as well as higher resource stock levels. This highlights the value of pragmatism in the design of cooperative institutions for managing natural resources.
Keywords: Collective action, Commons, Cooperation, Coupled natural-human systems ·, Evolutionary game theory, fisheries, Human behavior, social-ecological systems, Sustainability
Tilman, A. R., J. R. Watson, and S. Levin. 2017. Maintaining cooperation in social-ecological systems: Effective bottom-up management often requires sub-optimal resource use. Theoretical Ecology 10(2):155–165.REQUEST FROM AUTHOR