2 – The interdependency of social and natural capital in a coastal marine economy

Project outline and objectives:

Environmental public policy is increasingly focusing on the different forms of capital (physical, social, human, and natural) that are needed to maintain or improve quality of life. The interconnection among these forms of capital has garnered a great amount conceptual consideration in business and economic development, where the influence of social capital through networks of trust and engagement has been explored with respect to the success of multinational companies and start-ups. In economics, simple linear models and correlative relationships between social capital and economic outcomes have also been explored. What currently lacks however is the understanding of how the different forms of capital are related and evolve through time. This is particularly important in areas where humans rely heavily on natural capital in the form of natural resources. In natural resource management, dynamical models of natural resource production are well developed, but the influence of social capital on them is not, and although human behaviour is just starting to be considered in areas such as fisheries, there is still a paucity of attention on the effect of social capital and social dynamics on the sustainable use of natural capital.

At the same time natural capital affects social capital, and many communities that are reliant on natural capital, have experience substantial social upheaval when natural capital is mismanaged. This is the direct result of a lack of understanding of how natural capital dynamically influences social capital, with most attention being largely discursive, and focused on considering whether social and ecological resilience are inter-related.

The relation between natural capital and social capital is nowhere more important than in communities reliant on marine resources (natural capital) like Tasmania. The aim of this project is to begin investigating the interdependence between natural and social capital. Beginning with simple theoretical examples (e.g. based around a social network of resource exploiters and a single resource) and building to more complex multi-industry or multi-resource examples in Tasmania as a case study, this project will explore the interdependence between natural and social capital. It will not only advance theoretical understanding of the interplay of the different forms of capital, but will contribute to global change adaptation and governance by providing new insights on potential intervention points in a changing world.

The objectives of this project will be to:
1. Develop a theoretical relationship between natural capital and social capital.
2. Computationally and mathematically quantify social capital dynamics.
3. Evaluate the effects and reveal the trade-offs on social capital, of managing natural capital, particularly under changing environmental and economic conditions.
4. Apply these developments to a coastal marine economic sector and community.
The project will build on a range of modelling work already underway, that include the following methods:
1. Single resource, and integrated ecosystem modelling coupled to:
2. An agent-based model of the resource users, social capital and dynamics and the interaction with natural capital (resource)
3. Social network analysis will be used to quantify and characterize social capital.
Desirable backgrounds:
1. Natural resource (fishery, ecosystem) modelling;
2. Social theory and economics;
3. (Social) network theory and analysis

Mentoring and expertise committee
Rich Little (Rich Little@csiro.au)
Alistair Hobday, CSIRO
Ingrid van Putten, CSIRO
Sarah Jennings, UTas
Stewart Frusher, UTas
Beth Fulton, CSIRO
Julia Blanchard, UTas

Skills required:
1. Programming (any language),
2. Written and oral communication skills

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