Using a social-ecological system approach to enhance understanding of structural interconnectivities within the beekeeping industry for sustainable decision making

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The social-ecological system framework (SESF) is a comprehensive, multitiered conceptual framework often used to understand human-environment interactions and outcomes. This research employs the SESF to understand key interactions within the bee-human system (beekeeping) through an applied case study of migratory beekeeping in Western Australia (WA). Apiarists in WA migrate their hives pursuing concurrent flowering events across the state. These intrastate migratory operations are governed by biophysical factors, e.g., health and diversity of forage species, as well as legislated and negotiated access to forage resource locations. Strict biosecurity regulations, natural and controlled burning events, and changes in land use planning affect natural resource-dependent livelihoods by influencing flowering patterns and access to valuable resources. Through the lens of Ostrom’s SESF, we (i) identify the social and ecological components of the WA beekeeping industry; (ii) establish how these components interact to form a system; and (iii) determine the pressures affecting this bee-human system. We combine a review of scholarly and grey literature with information from key industry stakeholders collected through participant observation, individual semistructured interviews, and group dialog to determine and verify first-, second-, and third-tier variables as SESF components. Finally, we validate the identified variables through expert appraisal with key beekeepers in the industry. Our results identify the governance system, actors, resource system, and resource units comprising the beekeeping industry in WA. Using this approach, we identify three principal system pressures including access to apiary sites, burning of forage, and climate change impacts on the system, which influence the SES and its sustainability. Our approach provides for an improved understanding of SES complexities and outputs that should be used to support improved sustainable management of common pooled resources to ensure effective pollination and sustained apiary production.
Original languageEnglish
Article number24
Pages (from-to)1-29
Number of pages29
JournalEcology and Society
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 25 Jun 2020

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