Ecosystem size predicts social-ecological dynamics

Mark A. Kaemingk, Christopher J. Chizinski, Craig R. Allen, Kevin L. Pope

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Recreational fisheries are complex adaptive systems that are inherently difficult to manage because of heterogeneous user groups (consumptive vs. nonconsumptive) that use patchily distributed resources on the landscape (lakes, rivers, coastlines). There is a need to identify which system components can effectively predict and be used to manage nonlinear and cross-scale dynamics within these systems. We examine how ecosystem size or water body size can be used to explain complicated and elusive angler-resource dynamics in recreational fisheries. Water body size determined angler behavior among 48 Nebraska, U.S.A. water bodies during an 11year study. Angler behavior was often unique and nonlinear across water body sizes. For example, anglers spent more time fishing and harvested more fish at larger water bodies compared to smaller water bodies. Time fished increased across smaller water bodies, but reached a threshold at larger water bodies. The number of fish released increased as a function of water body size across smaller water bodies and then plateaued. Subtle changes in water body size caused abrupt changes in angler behavior, that is, water body size structures angler-resource dynamics in recreational fisheries. We believe that including water body size, a simple and easily measured metric, in fisheries management will increase effectiveness of cross-scale actions and minimize unintended consequences for recreational fisheries. Applying uniform management actions, e.g., harvest regulations, across small and large water bodies may elicit contrasting anglerresource responses. Water body size may also be useful for understanding angler typologies. Based on our findings, we expect that ecosystem size is a prominent and valuable system component that will determine and explain coupled user-resource dynamics in other complex adaptive systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number17
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jul 2019


  • Angler behavior
  • Complex adaptive systems
  • Cross-scale interactions
  • Discontinuity hypothesis
  • Recreational fisheries
  • Socialecological systems

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology


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