Northwest Fisheries Science Center

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Document Type: Journal Article
Center: NWFSC
Document ID: 8757
Title: Conceptualizing and Operationalizing Human Wellbeing for Ecosystem Assessment and Management
Author: Sara Jo Breslow, Xavier Basurto, Courtney Carothers, S. Charnley, Sarah Coulthard, Nives Dolsak, Jamie Donatuto, Carlos Garcia-Quijano, Christina Hicks, Arielle Levine, Michael B. Mascia, K. C. Norman, Melissa R. Poe, Terre Satterfield, Kevin St. Martin, P. S. Levin
Publication Year: 2016
Journal: Environmental Science & Policy
Volume: 66
Pages: 250-259
DOI: doi:10.1016/j.envsci.2016.06.023
Keywords: Human wellbeing,indicators,ecosystem-based management,integrated ecosystem assessment,sustainability

There is growing interest in assessing the effects of changing environmental conditions and management actions on human wellbeing. A challenge is to translate social science expertise regarding these relationships into structured terms usable by environmental scientists, policymakers, and managers. Here, we present a comprehensive, structured, and transparent conceptual framework of human wellbeing designed to guide the development of indicators and complementary social science research agenda for ecosystem-based management. Our framework grew out of an effort to develop social indicators for an integrated ecosystem assessment (IEA) of the California Current large marine ecosystem. Drawing from scholarship in international development, anthropology, geography, and political science, we define human wellbeing as a state of being with others and the environment, which arises when human needs are met, when individuals and communities can act meaningfully to pursue their goals, and when individuals and communities enjoy a satisfactory quality of life. We propose four major social science-based constituents of wellbeing: connections, capabilities, conditions, and cross-cutting domains. The latter includes the domains of equity and justice, security, resilience, and sustainability, which may be assessed through cross-cutting analyses of other consituents. We outline a process for identifying policy-relevant attributes of wellbeing that can guide ecosystem assessments. To operationalize the framework, we provide a detailed table of attributes and a large database of available indicators, which may be used to develop measures suited to a variety of management needs and social goals. Finally, we discuss four guidelines for operationalizing human wellbeing measures in ecosystem assessments, including considerations for context, feasibility, indicators and research, and social difference. Developed for the US west coast, the framework may be adapted for other regions, management needs, and scales with appropriate modifications.

Theme: Ecosystem approach to improve management of marine resources