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Maricela De la Torre Castro

Professor in Natural Resource Management

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Works at Department of Physical Geography
Telephone 08-16 17 48
Visiting address Svante Arrhenius väg 8
Room V 318
Postal address Inst för naturgeografi 106 91 Stockholm

About me

Professor in Natural Resource Management

My research is about coastal and ocean governance. 

I am intersted in human-nature interactions in coastal/ocean ecosystems, and work using a coupled view of social-ecological dynamics. I cooperate with social scientists to adress core sustainability challenges. I am mainly interested in the themes of governance and management with special attention to institutional dynamics. In my research I use a variety of methods to address the complexity of the issues above. I work empirically with seagrasses as social-ecological systems to investigate those human-nature interactions.

Key words: Coastal zone management and governance, seagrass ecology and societal importance, social-ecological systems, sustainable development in coastal communities,  seascape governance & management, small-scale fisheries, institutional dynamics, poverty and gender.

Themes of my present projects:
  • Gender in coastal environments (Climate change, resource use, conservation, MPAs)
  • Seagrass ecology and societal importance
  • Ecosystem goods and services in tropical seascapes
  • Small-scale fisheries social-ecological dynamics
  • High value marine products such as sea-cucumbers
  • Seascape management and governance

Education and academic positions:

BSc. Oceanology Honors (Universidad Autonoma de Baja California)

MSc. Natural Resurce Management (Stockholm University)

PhD. Natural Resurce Management (Stockholm University)

Docent/Associate professor. Natural Resurce Management (Stockholm University, 2012)

Professor in Natural Resource Management (Stockholm University, 2020)



A world in which natural values are recognized and protected for the benefit of humanity and other species.

A world in which science provides robust data and analysis as an input for positive societal development. 

A world that really cares about the future generations.



Head of the following programs:

Landscape Ecology (Master program)

Geography candidate work (Bachelor thesis, during autumn term) 

Teach in the following courses/programs:

  • Landscape Ecology – Program head. Dept. of Physical Geopgraphy, SU.

  • Geography candidate degree thesis work - Head for the autumn term. Dept. of Physical Geography, SU.
  • Environmental Management Studies for BIOGEO (Course leader)
  • Management of Ecosystem Services (7,5 hp) (Course leader). HSU program. Dept. of Physical Geography, SU.
  • Climate and Society, SU. (Grundkurs 15 hp). Dept. of Physical Geography, SU. (Co-responsible for the social aspects)
  • Landscape ecology theory and design (15 hp). Dept. of Physical Geography, SU.
  • Geography II. Natural resources and landscapes. Dept. of Physical Geography, SU.
  • Management of Aquatic Resources in the Tropics, SU. Advanced/master level (15 hp). DEEP, SU.
  • Political Ecology, SU. Advanced/Master level. 

Student supervision:

I have wide experience with both masters and doctoral student supervision. If you are interested in some of my research please contact me!




With opportunities for masters, internships, and others....


Social-ecological analysis of gendered effects of Marine Protected Areas - SEAgender. Funded by the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet). Principal Investigator. Vetenskapsrådet, VR. (starting 2019). 

1. Gender, fishing communities and adaptive capacity to climate change in Zanzibar, Tanzania and Inhaca Mozambique. Funded by the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet). Principal Investigator.
Vetenskapsrådet, VR. (closing Dec 2018). 

2. WATERMAS: Water Management and Climate Change in the Focus of International Master Programs. Funded by EU, ERASMUS program. Co-applicant. (PI: Steve Lyon). (2018-2020).

3. Seagrass biodiversity, social-ecological systems and poverty alleviation: a collaborative, comparative study in the Indo-Pacific. Funded by the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet). Co-applicant (PI: Johan Eklöf). (2018-2020).

4. Establishing an Indo-Pacific Seagrass Network (IPSN) to assess linkages among marine biodiversity, ecosystem services and poverty. Funded by the Swedish Research Council (Vetenskapsrådet). Collaborator (PI: Lina Mtwana Nordlund). (2018-2020).



  1. Chwaka book design and edition (2012). Western Indian Ocean Marine Scientists Association (WIOMSA).

  2. Driving forces behind the exploitation of sea urchins predators 2011. Results dissemination grant.  Western Indian Ocean Marine Scientists Association (WIOMSA).

  3. Fighting with big issues: Adaptive capacity of the poor to global climate change. Sida financed project. 2009. Planning grant.

  4. Conservation and poverty reduction in East Africa: women’s role in coastal livelihoods. Sida financed project (2009-2011).

  5. Opening windows and closing doors –Poverty reduction strategies in coastal communities in Zanzibar, Tanzania. Sida financed project (2007-2009).

  6. The role of seagrasses for coastal communities: Ecological, economical and institutional aspects in Zanzibar, Tanzania. Sida financed project for doctoral research (2003-2007).

  7. Seagrass beds in the islands from WIO: biodiversity resources. Main cooperation with Reunion University. Funded by IFB/CNRS/IRD. 200,000 Euro. Awarded as a group. Project leader P. Frouin (Reunion University), Investigators: M. de la Torre-Castro, Bourmaud, AFC., Hily, C., Bigot L., Pothin C., Gilbert D., et al.

  8. Seagrass and sea urchin interactions overgrazing and resource use in the Western Indian Ocean Region (WIO) (2007-2010). Western Indian Ocean Marine Scientists Association (WIOMSA). 100,000 USD. Awarded as a group. Project leader J. Uku (Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute KMFRI), Investigators: M. de la Torre-Castro, Bandeira S., Lyimo T., Eklöf J. Gullström M. and M. Björk.

  9. Sea cucumbers, a poorly understood but important coastal resource: national and regional analyses to improve management in the WIO. Marine Science for Management (MASMA) and Western Indian Ocean Marine Scientists Association (WIOMSA). Awarded as a group. Project leader: N. Muthiga (Kenya Wildlife Service) and C. Conand (Reunion University). Main investigators: M. De la Torre-Castro, Y. Mgaya, P. Frouin, J. Ochiewo, et al. Finished 2009.

  10. Sustainable management and valuation of seagrass ecosystems in the Western Indian Ocean. Marine Science for Management (MASMA) and Western Indian Ocean Marine Scientists Association (WIOMSA). Awarded as a group. Project leader Bandeira S (Eduardo Mondlane University, Mozambique), Main investigators: M. de la Torre-Castro, Lyimo T., M. Björk. Finished 2004.


Hampus Eriksson. Managing sea cucumber fisheries and aquaculture - Studies of social-ecological systems in the Western Indian Ocean. (Defended 2012).

Sara Fröcklin. Women in the seascape - Gender, livelihoods, and management of coastal and marine resources in Zanzibar, East Africa. (Defended 2014).

Sieglind Wallner. Fishing for sustainability: Towards transformation of seagrass-associated small-scale fisheries. (Defended 2017). 

Benjamin Jones. Linkages between biota, biodiversity and food security: a study of seagrass meadows and their associated fisheries in the Indo-Pacific Ocean. DEEP. (On-going, started 2018/ Assistant supervisor)

Felicity Pike. Working within the SEAgender project. Gendered effects of MPAs. (On-going, started Jan 2019/ Main supervisor)


A selection from Stockholm University publication database
  • 2016. Sieglind Wallner-Hahn (et al.). Marine Policy 72, 199-210

    The aim of this study was to empirically assess institutional aspects shaping fishers' behavior leading to unsustainable resource use, by using the example of destructive drag-net fishing in Zanzibar, Tanzania. A broad institutional approach was used to specifically assess institutional factors influencing the fishers' reasons for the current use of destructive drag-nets as well as their willingness- and economic capacity to change to less destructive gears. Different regulative, normative, cultural-cognitive and economic factors (tradition, group-belonging, social acceptance, common practice, identity of drag-net users and weak economic capacity) were identified as critical elements influencing the current use of destructive gears, as well as obstructing changes to other gears. Hence, the importance of addressing all of these factors, matching to the different contexts, rather than focusing on fast-moving regulative measures, is emphasized to increase chances of management success. More promising approaches would be resource allocations to more sustainable fishing gears, well-managed gear exchange programs, as well as alterations of slow-moving normative and cultural factors, e.g. awareness raising on the advantages of more sustainable fishing gears, their traditional and cultural values, information on the actual income they generate, as well as education and an exchange of traditional knowledge on how to use them.

  • 2015. Sieglind Wallner-Hahn (et al.). Ocean and Coastal Management 107, 16-27

    Marine ecosystems generate a wide variety of goods and services, but are globally deteriorating due to multiple drivers associated with anthropogenic activities. Intense fishing pressure can lead to changes in structure and function of marine food webs. Particularly overfishing of predatory species at high trophic levels can cause cascading effects leading to ecosystem degradation, affecting both marine organisms and people dependent on them. In the Western Indian Ocean region, intensive fishing takes place and degradation of coral reefs and seagrass beds has been documented. One reason behind this degradation is overgrazing by increasing numbers of sea urchins. An essential step towards better management is to thoroughly understand the drivers leading to such changes in ecosystems. Against this background, the general aim of this study was to gain understanding about whether sea urchin predators in the WIO region are fished, and to identify the drivers behind the fishing of these species. The study had four objectives: (i) to document if and how predatory fish eating sea urchins are caught in smallscale fisheries, (ii) to assess if, and if so why, sea urchin predators are targeted species, (iii) to assess if and to what degree local ecological knowledge (LEK) on ecological complexity involving sea urchins and their predators (e.g. trophic cascades) is present among local fishers, and (iv) to identify fishers' suggestions for management that can reduce problems linked to sea urchin overgrazing. The results show that all investigated species of sea urchin predators are fished by local small-scale fishers. Most sea urchin predators are not actively targeted, are not popular local food fish, and have minor use and economic importance for fishers. This stands in sharp contrast to their ecological keystone role by controlling sea urchin populations. The fishers' awareness and LEK were weak and partly lacking. Management suggestions targeted mostly the symptoms of food web changes rather than the drivers behind them.

    Based on the results we suggest that management of degraded ecosystems, as a result of food web changes, should encompass a wide variety of strategies and scales. Specific suggestions for sea urchin predator management are education of local stakeholders on destructive gear effects and food web complexity, further investigations of catch- and release fishing as well as the use of selective gears.

  • 2015. Alma Strandmark (et al.). Ambio 44, s28-S38

    Coastal habitats are situated on the border between land and sea, and ecosystem structure and functioning is influenced by both marine and terrestrial processes. Despite this, most scientific studies and monitoring are conducted either with a terrestrial or an aquatic focus. To address issues concerning climate change impacts in coastal areas, a cross-ecosystem approach is necessary. Since habitats along the Baltic coastlines vary in hydrology, natural geography, and ecology, climate change projections for Baltic shore ecosystems are bound to be highly speculative. Societal responses to climate change in the Baltic coastal ecosystems should have an ecosystem approach and match the biophysical realities of the Baltic Sea area. Knowledge about ecosystem processes and their responses to a changing climate should be integrated within the decision process, both locally and nationally, in order to increase the awareness of, and to prepare for climate change impacts in coastal areas of the Baltic Sea.

  • 2015. Lars Lindström, Maricela de la Torre-Castro. Interactive Governance for Small-Scale Fisheries, 671-686

    This chapter highlights some governance challenges in small-scale fisheries in the East African region using the case of Chwaka Bay, Zanzibar, Tanzania. In this case, self-governance processes involve strong normative and cultural-cognitive aspects that have underpinned de facto management actions and blocked other options towards sustainability. The conflict level between the villages in the Bay is very high and there is a need to address how the system may move from self-governance and conflict to co-governance and cooperation. The chapter focuses on the governance interactions between the state and the fishing villages as well as the state’s failed attempts to break unsustainable self-governance. It identifies the role that the state has played to promote co-management and participation, as well as highlights changing legislation and conservation in the area. What went wrong with these strategies and why? Who and with what method does the capacity for dynamic, interactive governance develop? Who co-ordinates interactions across different identities, interests, and different spatio-temporal scales, and how? Who establishes a common world view for action, and how? Which institution functions as a court of appeal for disputes arising within and over interactive governance?

  • 2014. Maricela de la Torre-Castro, Giuseppe Di Carlo, Narriman S. Jiddawi. Marine Pollution Bulletin 83 (2), 398-407

    Small-scale fisheries (SSF) in tropical seascapes (mosaics of interconnected mangroves, seagrasses and corals) are crucial for food and income. However, management is directed mostly to corals and mangroves. This research analyzes the importance of seagrasses compared to adjacent ecosystems in Chwaka Bay, Zanzibar, Tanzania. Using fish landings; the study investigated: location of fishing effort, fish production (biomass and species), and monetary benefits (aggregated value and per capita income). Seagrasses were the most visited grounds providing highest community benefits. Per capita benefits were equivalent to those from corals and mangroves. All three habitats provided income just above extreme poverty levels; however catches from seagrass appeared more stable. Seagrass are key ecosystems supporting SSF and protection and management are urgently needed. Adoption of a seascape approach considering all ecosystems underpinning SSF and the social aspects of fishing and a shift in emphasis from pure conservation to sustainable resource management would be desirable.

  • 2013. Sara Fröcklin (et al.). Ambio 42 (8), 951-962

    This paper fills an important gap towards adaptive management of small-scale fisheries by analyzing the gender dimension of fish trade in Zanzibar, Tanzania. We hypothesize that gender-based differences are present in the fish value chain and to test the hypothesis interviews were performed to analyze: (i) markets, customers, and mobility, (ii) material and economic resources, (iii) traded fish species, (iv) contacts and organizations, and (v) perceptions and experiences. Additionally, management documents were analyzed to examine the degree to which gender is considered. Results show that women traders had less access to social and economic resources, profitable markets, and high-value fish, which resulted in lower income. These gender inequalities are linked, among others, to women’s reproductive roles such as childcare and household responsibilities. Formal fisheries management was found to be gender insensitive, showing how a crucial feedback element of adaptive management is missing in Zanzibar’s management system, i.e., knowledge about key actors, their needs and challenges.

  • 2012. Maricela de la Torre-Castro. Coastal Management 40 (6), 612-633

    The last decade has seen a shift in the Natural Resource Management discourse, a shift from management to governance. Governance is held forward as a prime solution to problems associated with the sustainability of natural resources, including fisheries and other marine resources. Several countries in the Western Indian Ocean are framing governance solutions as a response to coastal/marine resource depletion and environmental degradation, but the challenges are huge and success stories remain few. This study provides an analysis of the governance situation in Chwaka Bay, Zanzibar, Tanzania. It presents the governance actors and how governance is expressed in terms of hierarchy (state), heterarchy (self-organized networks of resource users), and anarchy (market). The analysis illustrates the extreme difficulties of using governance approaches to steer human behavior to solve environmental problems and achieve sustainability. The study also provides some insights when considering the use of governance as a tool for the designing and/or steering social-ecological systems in subsistence contexts with weak formal institutions. These include the consideration of governance as an intrinsic part of complex societal processes, the idealization of governance as a template for redressing management failure and broader issues such as the importance of meta-governance.

  • 2012. Hampus Eriksson, Maricela de la Torre-Castro, Per Olsson. PLoS ONE 7 (4), e35504

    Background: Scuba diving fishing, predominantly targeting sea cucumbers, has been documented to occur in an uncontrolled manner in the Western Indian Ocean and in other tropical regions. Although this type of fishing generally indicates a destructive activity, little attention has been directed towards this category of fishery, a major knowledge gap and barrier to management. 

    Methodology and Principal Findings: With the aim to capture geographic scales, fishing processes and social aspects the scuba diving fishery that operate out of Zanzibar was studied using interviews, discussions, participant observations and catch monitoring. The diving fishery was resilient to resource declines and had expanded to new species, new depths and new fishing grounds, sometimes operating approximately 250 km away from Zanzibar at depths down to 50 meters, as a result of depleted easy-access stock. The diving operations were embedded in a regional and global trade network, and its actors operated in a roving manner on multiple spatial levels, taking advantage of unfair patron-client relationships and of the insufficient management in Zanzibar. Conclusions and

    Significance: This study illustrates that roving dynamics in fisheries, which have been predominantly addressed on a global scale, also take place at a considerably smaller spatial scale. Importantly, while proposed management of the sea cucumber fishery is often generic to a simplified fishery situation, this study illustrates a multifaceted fishery with diverse management requirements. The documented spatial scales and processes in the scuba diving fishery emphasize the need for increased regional governance partnerships to implement management that fit the spatial scales and processes of the operation. 

Show all publications by Maricela De la Torre Castro at Stockholm University

Last updated: May 20, 2020

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