Climate & Environment

Post-Doctoral Fellowships

United Kingdom

Transboundary Governance for Climate Change Adaptation in Marine Socio-Ecological Systems

This research project is one of the selected projects from the Joint Call for Projects by the AXA Research Fund and the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC-UNESCO) on Coastal Livelihood.
As the world's largest carbon sinks, oceans are our greatest allies against climate change. Yet they are under increasing pressure, getting warmer, more acidic, and deoxygenated. This reality has led to changes in oceanic circulation, rising sea levels, enhanced storm intensity, and changes in the diversity and abundance of marine species.[1] We are observing a significant decline in marine fish stock, especially in tropical and subtropical areas. Coastal communities whose livelihood and economy mainly rely on marine fisheries are facing a severe threat, and coastal and marine ecosystems’ resilience is strongly undermined.

However, despite the growing evidence that climate change will keep disrupting marine ecosystems, climate impacts on fish stocks, fisheries, and on the socio-economic conditions of those depending on these activities are rarely quantified. In addition, studies carried out to date lack consistency and have overlooked the most affected and threatened areas. 

While increasing uncertainty in climate poses a major threat to marine fisheries, in the long run, a plethora of studies suggest that changes in governance and management systems may have a greater impact on fisheries than climate change in the short term. In fisheries' social-ecological systems, climate actions are implemented within governance arrangements that involve a variety of state and non-state institutions. Yet, little is known about these institutions, the structure of the multilevel and cross-sectoral ties among them, and on how specifically these arrangements respond to the emergence of new collective action problems attributed to climate change adaptation.

During his AXA Fellowship at Lancaster University, Dr. Emmanuel Mbaru will develop a novel modeling framework of an interdisciplinary network to empirically quantify climate change’s impacts on fisheries, mainly in Kenya, Tanzania, and Mozambique and examine how different legal structures in fisheries governance affects the ability to adapt to climate change.

He will build on recent progress in climate modeling to quantify climate impacts in marine fisheries using the integrated climate-biodiversity-fisheries-economic impact model. The approach integrates a number of models and scenarios to advance an innovative interdisciplinary methodological framework that considers linkages between social-ecological fisheries systems in responding to climatic disturbances.  

The critical gaps in the interplay between climate governance, adaptations and mitigation measures will be addressed through the lens of two evolving concepts and emerging tools in natural resource management: interactive governance, institutional bricolage, and network analysis.

Interactive governance emphasizes solving societal problems and creating societal opportunities through interactions between large numbers of governance actors and institutions that are influenced, constrained, or enabled in their actions by structures.

Institutional bricolage looks beyond the existing formal institutions and expands the institutional bracket to include modern and traditional, formal and informal institutions.

Exploring the role of social networks in adaptation and governance will help uncover complex interdependencies at the system level and can help reveal deficiencies in the existing collaborative support management, which can be useful in enhancing local adaptive capacities and resilience to climate change.

By taking an in-depth look at climate change’s management and impacts on the marine ecosystem, Dr. Emmanuel Mbaru’s project aims to provide precious outputs to help better understand its disturbances and develop realistic fisheries management reforms that will help mitigate its impacts within the western Indian Ocean and beyond.

December 2022

[1] The ocean and climate change | IUCN

Find out more about the AXA-UNESCO Fellowships on Coastal Resilience



Lancaster University


United Kingdom