What Determines Social Capital in a Social–Ecological System? Insights from a Network Perspective


Michele Barnes-MautheSteven Allen GrayShawn AritaJohn LynhamPingSun Leung

Journal or Book Title: Environmental Management

Keywords: Social networks; Social capital; Human capital; Ethnic diversity; Stakeholder attribute; Natural resource management

Year Published: 2014


Social capital is an important resource that can be mobilized for purposive action or competitive gain. The distribution of social capital in social–ecological systems can determine who is more productive at extracting ecological resources and who emerges as influential in guiding their management, thereby empowering some while disempowering others. Despite its importance, the factors that contribute to variation in social capital among individuals have not been widely studied. We adopt a network perspective to examine what determines social capital among individuals in social–ecological systems. We begin by identifying network measures of social capital relevant for individuals in this context, and review existing evidence concerning their determinants. Using a complete social network dataset from Hawaii’s longline fishery, we employ social network analysis and other statistical methods to empirically estimate these measures and determine the extent to which individual stakeholder attributes explain variation within them. We find that ethnicity is the strongest predictor of social capital. Measures of human capital (i.e., education, experience), years living in the community, and information-sharing attitudes are also important. Surprisingly, we find that when controlling for other factors, industry leaders and formal fishery representatives are generally not well connected. Our results offer new quantitative insights on the relationship between stakeholder diversity, social networks, and social capital in a coupled social–ecological system, which can aid in identifying barriers and opportunities for action to overcome resource management problems. Our results also have implications for achieving resource governance that is not only ecologically and economically sustainable, but also equitable.

DOI: 10.1007/s00267-014-0395-7

Type of Publication: Journal Article

Publisher: Springer