Adaptive Capacity of the Monterey Bay Wetfish Fisheries: Proactive Responses to the 2015–16 El Niño Event

Stacy E. Aguilera, Kenneth Broad, Caroline Pomeroy

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Natural resource sustainability depends on adaptive capacity: the latent ability of a social–ecological system to rely on or implement effective strategies to cope with disturbances. We propose and implement a new three-step framework for studying a social–ecological system’s adaptive capacity that consists of assessment, strategy identification, and activation. We apply this framework to analyze the adaptive capacity of the Monterey Bay wetfish fisheries community in response to a significant stressor in the system: El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). We conducted 49 semi-structured interviews with participants engaged in these fisheries and/or providing ENSO information. Of the 67 social–ecological strategies identified through a literature review, we found 42 contribute to high adaptive capacity to ENSO. The most influential strategies were matching formal and informal rules to system dynamics, diversifying livelihoods, enhancing economic safety nets, social learning, and accessing early warning systems. Our findings suggest approaches for enhancing adaptive capacity in other resource systems.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1338-1357
Number of pages20
JournalSociety and Natural Resources
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2 2018


  • Adaptive capacity
  • El Niño Southern Oscillation
  • Monterey Bay
  • climate
  • wetfish fisheries

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Development
  • Environmental Science (miscellaneous)
  • Sociology and Political Science


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