Social capital as a key determinant of perceived benefits of community-based marine protected areas

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Globally, marine protected areas (MPAs) have been relatively unsuccessful in meeting biodiversity objectives. To be effective, they require some alteration of people's use and access to marine resources, which they will resist if they do not perceive associated benefits. Stakeholders’ support is crucial to ecological success of MPAs, and their support is likely to depend on their capacity to adapt to and benefit from MPAs. We examined the influence of social adaptive capacity (SAC) on perceived benefits of MPAs in Siquijor, Philippines, in the Coral Triangle. This region has substantial biodiversity and a population of over 120 million people, many of them dependent on marine resources for food and income. The region has many MPAs, most of which are managed under decentralized governance systems. We collected survey data from 540 households in 19 villages with associated MPAs. We evaluated the influence of multiple SAC variables (e.g., occupational multiplicity and social capital) on perceived benefits with decision trees (CHAID) and qualitatively analyzed this relationship with respect to types and recipients of benefits. Our models revealed the key role of social capital, particularly trust in leadership, in influencing perceptions of benefits (χ2 = 14.762, p = 0.000). A path analysis revealed that perceptions of distributional equity were a key mechanism through which social capital affected perceived MPA benefits (root mean-square error of approximation = 0.050). Building social capital and equity within communities could lead to more effective management of MPAs and thus to expenditure of fewer resources relative to, for example, regulation enforcement.

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Conservation Biology