Fuzzy cognitive mapping of Baltic Archipelago Sea food webs reveals no cliqued views of the system structure between stakeholder groups
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Fuzzy Cognitive Mapping
food web
Archipelago Sea
stakeholder interaction

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Uusitalo, L., Jernberg, S., Korn, P., Puntila-Dodd, R., Skyttä, A., & Vikström, S. (2020). Fuzzy cognitive mapping of Baltic Archipelago Sea food webs reveals no cliqued views of the system structure between stakeholder groups. Socio-Environmental Systems Modelling, 2, 16343. https://doi.org/10.18174/sesmo.2020a16343


Incorporating stakeholder views is a key element in successful environmental management, particularly if the managed system delivers cultural and provisioning ecosystem services directly to the stakeholders, or if there are conflicting views about the ecosystem functioning or its optimal management. One such system is the Archipelago Sea in the Southwestern coast of Finland. It is an area with high biodiversity, offering a range of ecosystem services, from regulating services to provisioning and cultural services. Furthermore, it is subjected to a variety of human activities ranging from eutrophication and marine transport to fishing. The management of the area is also a topic of debate, including discussions of minimum landing size of fish, seal hunting quotas, and the role of cormorants in the ecosystem. Fuzzy cognitive mapping  offers a method to evaluate and quantitatively compare different actors’ views on ecosystem structure. The models can be compared quantitatively and simulated to illustrate how they respond to various pressure scenarios. This may reveal differences in the perceptions about what are the important interactions in the ecosystem, and how the system would respond to management measures, potentially explaining differing opinions about the best management strategy. In this work, 30 stakeholders, including policy makers, scientists, eNGOs, fisheries, and recreational users created fuzzy cognitive maps (FCMs) of the Archipelago Sea food web. We found that despite the debate about the management of the area, the stakeholders’ views about the food web structure were not clustered based on the stakeholder group, i.e. the different stakeholder groups did not have distinct ideas about the ecosystem structure. The FCM complexity did not show a pattern based on the stakeholder group either. While the general pattern of the FCMs indicated a shared view of the food web structure across most respondents, there was one map from the recreational group that stood out. The exact setup of the models varied. Across all maps, cod, perch, fishing, zooplankton, and herring were the variables having most links with the other variables.  The simulated ecosystem responses indicated that fishing was seen as a key factor affecting food web components, while increases of salinity and oxygen levels have a positive impact on multiple ecosystem components. The value of the approach is to enable a two-way discussion about the food webs and how management of pressures may impact the components.

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