Social and temporal dynamics mediate the distribution of ecosystem service benefits from a small-scale fishery

R. Grantham, J. Lau, D. J. Mills, G. S. Cumming

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Small-scale fisheries are important for the livelihoods and food security of millions of people in low-income countries. Sustainably managing these dynamic social-ecological systems requires understanding links between ecosystems and human well-being: the focus of ecosystem service approaches. However, in-depth exploration of how co-production and temporal dynamics shape ecosystem benefits in small-scale fisheries remain nascent. There is thus an opportunity to better investigate pathways through which small-scale fisheries support food security. To address this gap, we ask how households allocate seafood landings across different uses, depending on supply and season. Using a daily survey, we collected panel data on landings from 15 households on Atauro Island, Timor-Leste, over six 1-week periods across three seasons, representing 630 survey days and 179 fishing trips. We found households mediate the pathways through which seafood contributes to food security. Specifically, the proportion of landings eaten, sold or shared changed with the amount landed and across seasons. As landings increased, households ate a smaller proportion and sold a greater proportion. The greatest proportion of landings were sold in the preparation season, when households save money to buy staple foods. Landings were shared with family and kin, reflecting the importance of seafood for social capital and community food security. Put broadly, households shaped a dynamic and non-linear (not directly proportional) relationship between service supply and benefits. Our findings demonstrate that seasonal context and livelihood priorities shape seafood provisioning benefits in small-scale fisheries. Careful consideration of temporal scale in ecosystem service assessments is critical for sustainable management of small-scale fisheries.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)15-30
Number of pages16
JournalEcosystems and People
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2022
Externally publishedYes


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