Agricultural Biodiversity Maintenance in a Coastal Socio-Ecological System: the Pearl Lagoon Basin, Nicaragua

  • Nicholas E. WilliamsEmail author
  • Daniel B. Kramer


Globalization processes, such as market pressures, tend to encourage farmers to reduce agricultural (or agro-) biodiversity. Yet, what is known about the drivers of agrobiodiversity erosion largely comes from research from communities in which farming is the principle natural resource-based livelihood. Focusing on Caribbean Nicaragua’s Pearl Lagoon Basin following the construction of the first regional road, we used a mixed methods approach to understand how the complex livelihood dynamics inherent in coastal socio-ecological systems—where households rely upon both terrestrial and aquatic resources—affect farmers’ decisions to maintain agrobiodiversity. Our analyses reveal atypical spatial patterns of agrobiodiversity maintenance relative to road access: the farming systems of households most proximal to the road are significantly more agrobiodiverse than those maintained by household in distant communities. This pattern is in part explained by local livelihood dynamics. Market access associated with road development encouraged the depletion of the lagoon fishery. To buffer their food security, households’ near to the road are focusing efforts on their historically biodiverse subsistence agricultural systems. These findings suggest that conservation efforts targeting coastal socio-ecological systems must account for the ways in which the complexity of natural resource-based livelihoods in these systems affect households’ responses to a changing world.


Coastal socio-ecological systems Globalization Agricultural biodiversity Livelihood diversity Caribbean Nicaragua 



This work was supported by the U.S. National Science Foundation (CNH-0815966) and a National Socio-Environmental Synthesis Center (SESYNC), Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), and German Center for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDIV) Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services working group.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Interdisciplinary and Global Studies DivisionWorcester Polytechnic InstituteWorcesterUSA
  2. 2.James Madison College and Department of Fisheries & WildlifeMichigan State UniversityEast LansingUSA

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