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Value and risk mapping: creating effective conservation and resource management tools

Coastal marine environments provide a wide range of goods and services that contribute to human wellbeing resulting in a natural connection with the environment where economic and spiritual values may be equally important. Because of these perceived values, many people have a natural inclination towards coastal marine areas, with a resultant potential for resources depletion, or degradation of areas that are highly valued. Often, research examining the value of an area considers natural capital or ecosystem services (both in economic terms), but fails to capture concepts of perceived intrinsic, social, or cultural values in a meaningful manner and rarely all values are considered together. Recently, these perceived societal values are acknowledged and incorporated into international environmental agreements as important elements that require pro-active consideration within management decision-making. However, due to its recent inclusion into the environmental management panorama, no standardised methodology (or framework) to assess values is established. By having a common framework, it is possible to enhance dialogue between researchers that creates mutual goals and comparable results. The central aim of this research was to create a framework to identify, map and assess perceived environmental, economic, social and cultural values, and to test their validity through hazard scenarios. The thesis draws on a case study from Gladstone, a port industrial city in central Queensland, Australia, situated within the Great Barrier Reef World Heritage Area (GBRWHA). The proposed framework consisted in three general steps: 1) the identification of societal values via a bottom-up inductive approach; 2) the spatial identification and mapping of societal values; and 3) the development and testing of a novel post-hoc weighted risk analysis. The input data for this framework was qualitative and quantitative, applying a mixed-methods approach. To identify the societal values from an individual’s perspective about the Gladstone Region, a group of 30 participants from nine different stakeholder groups were interviewed. The in-depth interview questions were designed to explore elements in the Gladstone Region environment that were perceived of as important in all four-value contexts (i.e. cultural, economic, environmental and social). The results demonstrated that respondents held a wide variety of societal values and concerns for the Region, and that different stakeholder groups in the area shared common values and concerns (Chapter 2). Some socio-demographic characteristics of the participants (i.e. time and place of residence, place of birth, income, gender and generation) statistically influenced respondent’s values and concerns, but no values, commonality of concerns, norms and beliefs were statistically evident between stakeholder groups. To elicit the perceived spatial distribution and importance of the values identified by the group of stakeholders, four surveys were designed and implemented aimed at eliciting the spatial location and perceived importance of a series of 22 cultural, economic, environmental and social values (Chapter 3). These surveys also included questions to explore the respondents’ preferences about different types of urban development, as well as questions about their perception of the environmental health of the port and its spatial location within the GBRWHA. The relationship between the perceived importance assigned to values and the respondents’ age, gender, level of education attained, time of residence, place of birth and place of residence was also explored. The results revealed that 23% (n = 5 out of 22) of the identified societal values had a statistically significant relationship between the respondents’ socio-demographics and their perceived importance. In general, the regression models demonstrate that respondents older than 46 years of age and living in the Gladstone Region over a mid to long-term period assigned higher importance to societal values (Chapter 3). The survey (combined with the interviews) also indicated that there is a certain acceptance of the ‘industrial character of the city’ and the Gladstone Region, with the associated environmental consequences this industrial character may entail. The general spatial distribution of the 22 values occurred along the coastline and the majority of the most important places for those values coincided with the populated and accessible areas in the Gladstone Region. Additionally, the areas marked for the different types of future development covered not only the coastline but most of the Gladstone Region. Potential conflicts between these areas and the societal values were not evident. The elicitation method (i.e. face-to-face surveys), the spatial features used (i.e. unlimited number of points), the weighting method (i.e. importance in a scale of 1 to 10), and the GIS density analysis chosen, proved to be a good option for future societal values’ assessment (Chapter 4). However, it is important to further explore this and other methods in order to standardise the methodology (Chapter 4). The final societal values’ data was used to develop and test a spatially weighted risk analysis. For the risk analysis, an oil spill hazard scenario was constructed based on information of consequences of previous oil spill events and the predominant currents in the Gladstone harbour. The proposed risk analysis provided herein adds an extra step to the conventional risk analysis process by incorporating the perceived importance of societal values with their spatial distribution (Chapter 5). Identifying and attempting to understand the environmental, economic, social and cultural values in a given area, can help to improve how we manage our coastal marine environments. Our understanding of societal behaviour towards coastal marine environments is relatively limited, which influences how we can effectively make environmental management decisions in these ecosystems. The information and approach developed in this thesis aimed to provide a standardised framework that managers and decision-makers can use to pro-actively acknowledge and include community concerns, views, and values within local, regional, national, and international projects.
Type of thesis
Rodríguez-Salinas, P. (2018). Value and risk mapping: creating effective conservation and resource management tools (Thesis, Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)). The University of Waikato, Hamilton, New Zealand. Retrieved from https://hdl.handle.net/10289/11727
The University of Waikato
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