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Conserv Biol. 2012 Apr;26(2):315-23. doi: 10.1111/j.1523-1739.2011.01808.x. Epub 2012 Jan 19.

Challenges to interdisciplinary research in ecosystem-based management.

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Center for Environmental Studies, Box 1943, Brown University, Providence, RI 02912, USA.


Despite its necessity, integration of natural and social sciences to inform conservation efforts has been difficult. We examined the views of 63 scientists and practitioners involved in marine management in Mexico's Gulf of California, the central California coast, and the western Pacific on the challenges associated with integrating social science into research efforts that support ecosystem-based management (EBM) in marine systems. We used a semistructured interview format. Questions focused on how EBM was developed for these sites and how contextual factors affected its development and outcomes. Many of the traditional challenges linked with interdisciplinary research were present in the EBM projects we studied. However, a number of contextual elements affected how mandates to include social science were interpreted and implemented as well as how easily challenges could be addressed. For example, a common challenge is that conservation organizations are often dominated by natural scientists, but for some projects it was easier to address this imbalance than for others. We also found that the management and institutional histories that came before EBM in specific cases were important features of local context. Because challenges differed among cases, we believe resolving challenges to interdisciplinary research should be context specific.

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